Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini

Episode 12,   Aug 17, 2022, 04:01 AM

American folk heroes are not of their own choosing. Just ask Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.  As a former World Boxing Association champion, film producer and a native son of Youngstown, Ohio, Mancini shrugs, “I just happen to be that guy.”

Mancini became a hero at a time when Youngstown needed one most. Let’s go back to the late 1970s. On Sept. 19, 1977, a date that lives in Northeast Ohio infamy, 5,000 steelworkers lost their jobs on "Black Monday,” after Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed its doors — forever. Two years later, as the area’s economy continued to reel, Mancini fought his first professional boxing match. He was 18. He won.

With several more closings and 45,000 job losses over the next three years, Boom Boom provided hope. He kept winning fights and climbing the world rankings. Then, he realized his dream and kept a promise he made to his father — a former pro boxer who’s ambitions were dashed by a WWII injury — Mancini won the world title. On May 8th, 1982, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini defeated Arturo Frias in a first round knockout to become the WBA lightweight champion. It’s a title he would hold until 1984. In doing so, he symbolized his hometown’s resolve to take the punches life had to offer and keep punching back. By the time he retired in 1992, Mancini had become an indelible symbol of Youngstown’s moxie.

But the Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini story doesn’t end with boxing. In 2014, after three decades acting and producing on the West Coast,  he returned to Youngstown with a new promise — to establish the city as a film production destination.  And why not? Youngstown is, after all, where the Warner Brothers got their start and Mancini had already made two films in town — the documentary "Youngstown Still Standing,"  featuring friend and "Modern Family" star Ed O’Neill (another Youngstown native) and the biopic about his own life “The Good Son."

Now he has a new title — producer.  His company Champion Pictures is currently in pre-production on a feature set to start principal photography this fall.  Mickey Rourke is slated to star and Craig Singer, from 2021’s "6:45," is onboard to direct.

While the roar of blast furnaces is a thing of the past, if Mancini’s new dream is realized,  Youngstown‘s new sound  will be,  “… and action!”