Noted ‘80s era lightweight boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is the subject of a passionate and stylishly composed documentary that allows the charismatic champion from Youngstown, Ohio to tell his story of tremendous victories and terrible losses. This narrative admirably transcends the 20th century immigrant narrative template, which is all but forgotten now that voyeurism is valued higher than historic relevance.
Let's get the obvious first question out of the way: Ray Mancini adopted his dad’s boxing name “Boom Boom” with a dream of living up to family tradition.
Anyone who has heard Warren Zevon’s haunting song “Boom Boom Mancini” (from his “Sentimental Hygiene” album) knows that Mancini “was responsible for the death of Du Koo Kim.” But few listeners know about the circumstances of the 1982 fight that changed the rules of boxing forever — fights were reduced from 15 to 12 rounds as a result of the Mancini/Kim bout that left Du Koo Kim with a blood clot in his brain, which eventually killed him.
Director Jesse James Miller compiles interviews with Mancini's neighbors, friends, priests, family members, cops, and boxing luminaries to explain how a kid from a Sicilian working-class family worked diligently to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pro boxer, struggling in the shadow of his older boxer brother Lenny. Mancini biographer Mark Kriegel adds profound insights with a healthy dose of editorial veracity.
Youngstown, Ohio-born actor Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”) recounts following his friend Raymond’s career as a hometown boxing phenomenon. O’Neill explicates the mob-ruled cultural landscape of Youngstown, where a steel-mill worker could raise a family and have a secure working-class lifestyle. But if a guy wanted to move up and “swim with the sharks,” then he'd “better be a shark.”
Such are the social circumstances that put the 21-year-old Boom Boom Mancini in the respectful orbit of such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke, and Sylvester Stalone — Mancini’s star burned bright and the future seemed to hold all that fortune favors. Was Stalone’s “Rocky” based on Raymond Mancini? I think you know the answer.
However undone by a hypocritical media and a corrupt boxing system, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is revealed as more than merely a survivor. It would spoil the impact of the documentary’s perfect arc to describe the essential aspect of the Mancini/Kim narrative that brings it all home. Suffice it to say that “The Good Son” is one of those documentaries that could easily slip under the public radar. With so few “stand-up” guys left in the world, it’s refreshing to meet up with Boom Boom after all these years and discover an admirable man with all of the hard-earned self-respect that anyone could hope to achieve. Don’t miss “The Good Son.”
Not Rated. 90 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
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