The Ramirez fight this month will also be televised by CBS. The winner hopes to land a title bout with WBC champion Alexis Arguello, who barely beat Ramirez on a controversial split decision last November. Ramirez is a lefthander; he is the Mexican lightweight champion; and he figures to be Mancini's toughest test. Boom Boom thinks it will go the distance.
"My father never fought a southpaw, so he can't help me on this fight," Ray says. He is a gracious, popular young man—not cocky—who talks very nearly as rapidly as he punches. "He told me, 'Just go in there and throw punches. That's all I ever knew.' That's what he says before every fight.
"Once he told me, 'Just remember, you've got too much heart for this guy. Think of that, and it'll get you through a fight.' I always do think of that. That was the thing about him—he had too much heart for anybody he ever fought. That's why I want him with me the whole day before I have a fight. You'd hit him and he'd keep coming at you. You couldn't slow him down. He was a feared fighter, and if he was coming up nowadays, he'd be a millionaire for sure. That's why I've got to do it for him. I know what he went through. The heartaches. He always says, 'I never took a step backward, but sometimes I wish I did.' I love it when he says that."
I want to feel this man's pains.
I want to be locked in this man's chains.
A writer from New York was interviewing Ray recently, and she said to him, "That's a great gig you've got going with you and your father." Ray wasn't sure what she meant, so, being polite, he smiled and nodded. "But really," she asked. "Why do you fight?"
"What do you mean?" he said. "I just told you. My father."
"Sure, sure," she said, certain she was onto something. "But why really?"
Ray caught on and, angry now, said, "It ain't no gig, lady, and I don't really care what you think." It was his first heavy exposure to Big Apple cynicism.
Already he's been exposed to the price of fame. Youngstown, an industrial city that has fallen on hard times because of steel mills closing down, is starved for heroes. In the two-county area around it, 28,000 people are out of work. Ray Mancini is a local boy who has made good and who hasn't forgotten his roots, and he is now Youngstown's own Hands of Stone. "I can tell you honestly," says one resident, "there's not too much else to go on here."
In the euphoria following his victory over Morales, Ray, who is trusting and outgoing in the extreme, accepted every request for an appearance and found out just how demanding people can be. Boom Boom Sr. accepted an invitation for Ray to speak at a father-son luncheon on Father's Day, but then forgot to tell Ray about it. A last-minute phone call got the two of them to the luncheon, very late, and when Ray arrived he was in a funk. His father's memory lapses have always exasperated him. "But then I thought about all the things he gave me that he never had, and about how lucky I was, and how petty I was being over something like his memory, and I was just embarrassed," Ray says. His message that day was that sons should realize their fathers aren't perfect, and have no right to expect them to be.