One of the iconic smaller weight fighters of the last 50 years became a world champion for the first time 37 years ago Wednesday. That’s when Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini scored a spectacular first-round TKO that launched him into worldwide boxing stardom.
Mancini, who hails from Youngstown, Ohio, had been an up and coming lightweight contender in the early 1980s rising to a 20 – 0. That’s when he was beaten on a 14th round technical stoppage by legendary lightweight champion Alexis Arguello.
Undaunted, Mancini bounced back from that loss with two knockout wins and entered the ring in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday afternoon May 8, 1982, looking to take advantage of his second attempt at winning the championship.
The champion that day was Arturo Frias of California, who had just recently captured the WBA belt the previous year. Frias had successfully defended the title in late January by winning a technical decision after 9 rounds over Ernesto Espana.
That set the stage for an electric one round fight at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino televised all over the country by CBS. Their legendary team of Tim Ryan and Gil Clancy were on the call of one of the most memorable first rounds ever. Relive it here:
After being staggered and nearly dropped, Mancini put on a furious punching display scoring a knockdown of Frias late in the first round. As the video showed, Frias was clearly dazed and bleeding, as referee Richard Greene counted in front of him. Then, seconds later, Mancini was swarming the champ, again, along the ropes. A barrage of punches from “Boom Boom” went unanswered forcing Greene to jump in and wave the fight off at 2:54 of the opening round.
The jubilant scene in the ring immediately after the stoppage, showed Mancini’s wild popularity already. Then, on that Youtube clip, you see a brief interview with his father about Ray fulfilling his father’s dream that he might someday win a World Championship.
Tragically, after Mancini defended the title once in the summer, the afternoon of November 13th, 1982, again in Las Vegas, he fought against South Korean Challenger Duk-koo Kim. Kim and Mancini held an amazing battle, where many believe Kim was winning heading into the late rounds.
Then, Mancini wore Kim down and nearly knocked him out at the end of the 13th round. The bell sounded for round 14 and Mancini darted across the ring knocking Kim down and eventually, out inside of :20 seconds. Kim was helped to a stool, but later had swelling on the brain, went into a coma and died from his injuries that’s faithful day in the Vegas desert.
Mancini attended Kim’s funeral in South Korea and said to the media that he was devastated by what happened. He continued to fight, however, and won four more times to improve to 29-1. That’s when Mancini was upset in June of 1984, by Livingstone Bramble on a late round TKO. Bramble also beat Mancini in the rematch by unanimous decision in February of 1985. He would fight two more times against Hector Camacho and Greg Haugen, losing both before retiring at age 41 with a 29 – 5 record.
Still, Mancini’s furious first-round TKO over Frias in May of 1982, began his championship reign, and is still one of the more memorable one round fights in modern boxing history.