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The Good Son The Life & Times of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini By Mark Kriegel

Release date: 05th August, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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First published in the USA to widespread critical acclaim last year, The Good Son, now available in the UK, is as fine a sporting biography as you will ever read.

The background to Ray Mancini’s compelling story is widely known: third generation immigrant of Italian descent who got the opportunity to fight for a world title, an opportunity denied his father after he was drafted during World War II.

At Caesar’s Palace in November 1982, ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini was on the cusp of claiming a place in boxing’s history books as he prepared to fight for the WBA lightweight title. History was indeed made that night, but for all the wrong reasons.

Mancini’s opponent was a little-known Korean, Duk Koo Kim, a boxer who entered the ring boasting an impressive 17-1-1 record.

Many fights are described as brutal, but the Mancini-Kim contest bordered on the savage as each man launched ferocious, remorseless attacks, drawing upon their deepest reserves of strength, spirit and ultimately, their very soul.

Mark Kriegel’s build-up to this merciless conflict is undertaken at a pace which accommodates sufficient colour and allows him to leaven the biography with engaging anecdotes and asides, so adding depth to his masterful portrait.

Having beaten each other to a virtual standstill, by the 14th round, with each man bruised and bloodied, the fight’s ferocity intensified as both searched for the knock-out punch. Mancini landed it, hitting Kim so hard his head bounced when it landed on the canvas. The referee stopped the fight, declaring Mancini the victor by a technical knock-out as Kim was lifted onto a stretcher and taken from the ring.

Doctors tried to save Kim’s life, but brain surgery proved futile. The hospital waited until Kim’s mother arrived from Korea before turning off his life support machine. Three months later, Mrs Kim committed suicide; in July 1983, the fight’s referee, Richard Green, would also take his own life.

The aftermath of the contest would live with Mancini, but this complex American emerges as a thoroughly decent guy. Boxing learnt too. In the wake of Kim’s death, pre- and post-fight medical care was dramatically improved and title fights were reduced in length from 15 to 12 rounds. Discovering why this happened is often a harrowing experience, but ultimately an extremely rewarding one.

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