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From the mobbed-up steel city of Youngstown, Ohio, Mancini was cast as the savior of a sport: a righteous kid in a corrupt game, symbolically potent and demographically perfect, the last white ethnic. He fought for those left behind in busted-out mill towns across America. But most of all, he fought for his father. Lenny Mancini--the "original "Boom Boom, as he was called--had been a lightweight contender himself. But the elder Mancini's dream ended on a battlefield in November 1944, when fragments from a German mortar shell nearly killed him. Almost four decades later, Ray promised to win the title his father could not. What came of that vow was a feel-good fable for network television.
But it all came apart November 13, 1982, in a brutal battle at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Mancini's obscure Korean challenger, Duk Koo Kim, went down in the 14th round and never regained consciousness. Three months later, Kim's despondent mother took her own life. The deaths would haunt Ray and ruin his carefully crafted image, suddenly transforming boxing's All-American Boy into a pariah.
Now, thirty years after that nationally televised bout, Mark Kriegel finally uncovers the story's full dimensions. In tracking the Mancini and Kim families across generations, Kriegel exacts confessions and excavates mysteries--from the killing of Mancini's brother to the fate of Kim's son. In scenes both brutal and tender, the narrative moves from Youngstown to New York, Vegas to Seoul, Reno to Hollywood, where the inevitably romantic "idea "of a fighter comes up against reality.
With the vivid style and deep reporting that have earned him renown as a biographer, Kriegel has written a fast-paced epic. "The Good Son "is an intimate history, a saga of fathers and fighters, loss and redemption.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-06-11
- Reviewer: Staff
ESPN columnist and author Kriegel’s smoothly written biography tells the story of a rust belt hero whose boxing career was marred by tragedy in the ring. Raised in gritty Youngstown, Ohio, Ray grew up obsessed with the boxing legacy of his father, Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini. The older Mancini had been a lightweight contender, but injuries suffered in WWII denied him his title shot. Ray dedicated his life to winning the championship that had eluded his father, and at age 21, succeeded. The feel-good story and Ray’s relentless fighting style put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated while bringing big endorsements and the friendship of Sylvester Stallone and Frank Sinatra. However, the death of the Korean fighter Duk Koo Kim at Ray’s hands created enormous controversy and shadowed Mancini for the following two decades. Kriegel draws a sweeping portrait of his central characters and the worlds they inhabited, from Lenny’s apprenticeship in the New York boxing scene of the 1930s to Duk Koo Kim’s impoverished upbringing in postwar Korea. Particularly gripping is the depiction of Youngstown as the factories closed and organized crime moved in. Kriegel isn’t a boxing insider and provides limited accounts of the sport and the fights that made Ray famous. However, as a saga of two families dealing with hardship and violent death, this boxing history is completely engaging. Agent: David Vigliano. (Sept.)