By Frances Clause
Rolling with life’s punches and delivering his own — Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini believes life is all about the journey.
Mancini took the audience through his life journey from Youngstown to New York to California and back in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center on Tuesday as part of the Centofanti Symposium.
Joseph Mosca, former dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, said the Centofanti Symposium is a way of raising social consciousness, where speakers typically discuss social issues and concerns. This year, the symposium focuses on celebrating Youngstown and those who have a positive impact.
“Ray is somebody who has lived through the evolution here, and he’s brought a lot of pride and uplifting kind of feeling to Youngstown,” Mosca said. “So, that’s part of the reason we’re having him speak tonight.”
Moving back to the area in 2014 after living in Santa Monica, California, for 30 years, Mancini reflected on growing up in Youngstown’s South Side.
“Everything I am now, everything I’ve ever been and everything I ever will be has to do with my family and my city,” he said.
Throughout his boxing career, supporters from Youngstown followed him and, according to Mancini, carried him a lot farther than his body wanted to go. Mancini held the World Boxing Association lightweight title from 1982 to 1984 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015.
“I knew I wanted to be a fighter since day one,” he said. “I never wanted to be anything else because of my father. My father was a fighter in the ‘30s and ‘40s. He was my hero.”
Mancini’s dedication to Youngstown is evident in his career, with four fights at Packard Music Hall, one at the Mollenkopf Stadium in 1982 and others in the area that all lead to victory.
But the lightweight champion endured life’s heavy punches during a tragic fight against Kim Duk-koo, a South Korean boxer who later died due to his injuries.
Mancini told his audience that he takes the time this month to reflect on that day in Las Vegas in front of thousands of spectators.
“Part of me died with him,” Mancini said. “I fought for righteous reasons: to be world champion for my father. I fought for the noble art. … I fought for righteous reasons, but after that fight, there was nothing righteous about it for me.”
With his love taken from the sport, he took time off. But he later made a comeback in 1989 and fought before retiring for good in 1992. He has since worked as an actor and sports commentator.
The audience in the Chestnut Room was moved by Mancini’s stories, including David Luscher, a 1997 Youngstown State University graduate and associate director for WYSU.
Luscher said he grew up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and it was impossible to not know about Mancini and his impressive rise to the top of the fight game.
“Ray came along when the area desperately needed to believe in itself again. His fighting style and the challenges in his life became a metaphor for the challenges we were all facing,” Luscher said.
Luscher believes the key takeaway from Mancini’s speech was success happens when preparation meets opportunity.
“In anything in life, you have to be hungry for what you want and be willing to make the sacrifices,” he said.
“Don’t talk about what you’re going to do; show people what you’re going to do,” Luscher added, echoing Mancini’s words during his speech.
Mancini continues to affect Youngstown by giving back to the community and teaching audiences about the meaning of “life is all about the journey.”
“It’s about the experiences we have along the way, the relationships we make along the way, and so when it is all said and done, you’re going to remember the journey,” Mancini said. “You have to have a goal in mind. It ain’t about the destination, and it’s been a pretty good ride for me.”