Mancini's father, Lenny Mancini, was a top ranked contender during the 1940s who was considered by many to be a future world champion. His dream, however was dashed after he was wounded during World War II. He returned to boxing, but his physical problems prevented him from fullfilling his potential.
Lenny became young Ray's inspiration and Ray started going to the gym at a young age. Ray had a stellar amateur career and in 1978, he made the jump to the professional ranks. His whirlwind punching style caught the eyes of network executives at several American television networks, and he became a regular on their sports programming.
Ray during this time beat some very good boxers, like former United States champion Norman Goins,
His first world title attempt came in his next bout, vs. Alexis Arguello. It was chosen by many, including Ring Magazine and ESPN as one of the most spectacular bouts of the 1980s, and Mancini gave Arguello trouble, but the more experienced champion used his experience to his advantage and took out the challenger in 14 rounds. Mancini was saddened by his first defeat, but not about to give up on his dream.
Six months later, he challenged the new world champion, Arturo Frias, for the world title. It was one of the most spectacular first rounds of history, and up until the Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns bout 3 years later, it was recognized as "the" most spectacular first round ever. 15 seconds into the fight, the fast starting champion caught Mancini with a right to the chin and Mancini shook. Another combination made Mancini start bleeding from his eyebrow. Mancini stormed back and dropped the champion right in the center of the ring with a spectacualr combination. Dazed and surprised, Frias got back up, but Mancini went after his prey with a fury, and was on top of him the moment the referee said they could go on, trapping him against the ropes. After many unanswered blows, the referee stopped the fight, and the Mancini family finally had a world champion: Ray Boom Boom Mancini.
Before his confrontation with Frias and during training camp in Tucson, three unwanted visitors, gunmen, paid a visit to Mancini at his hotel. The gunmen were told he was not there, they never came back, and Mancini trained with police surveillance until the fight.
Mancini's first defense, against former world champion Ernesto Espana, went smoothly with a Mancini knockout win in 6 rounds, but his next defense would change both his life and the face of boxing: On November 13th, 1982, he met South Korean challenger Duk Koo Kim. Kim had to lose several pounds before the fight to make the weight, and was dehydrated. By fight time, Kim was spent. It was, according to many observers, a fight filled with action, but Mancini had an easy time hitting Kim during the 14 rounds the fight lasted. Kim's sustained brain injuries that led to his death 5 days later. The week after his death, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine showed Mancini and Kim battling, under the title Tragedy In The Ring.
Mancini went to the funeral in South Korea, but he fell into a deep depression afterwards. He had to take a vacation from boxing, to search himself spiritually. This was the hardest blow for him in life. He has healed from it, but he always carries this emotional wound. He has said publicly that the hardest part is when people approach him and ask him if he was the boxer who killed Duk Koo Kim. He says it's hard to try to make people understand he didn't kill anyone, and that Kim's death was a regrettable accident he wishes he'd never been a part of.
As a consequence of the fight, studies were carried out, which revealed that usually a boxer receives most of his or her punishment after round 12, and because of that finding, the WBC soon shortened its title bouts to a 12 round distance. The WBA and WBO followed in 1988 and the IBF did in 1989.
Mancini began the process of getting his life back together by putting on gloves, and he went to Italy to fight British champion George Feeney, a tough guy from England. Mancini won a 10 round decision, but he was not the Ray Mancini of old.
He defended his title twice more, including one against double world champion Bobby Chacon on HBO. The overmatched Mexican boxer lasted only 3 rounds and, to the fans at least, the old Boom Boom seemed to be back. He was, however, planning to get out of the sport and into a less violent trade: Acting.
In June of 1984, Mancini, obviously still feeling the effects of the immediate shock after the tragedy, put on a brave effort to retain his title in a wild slugfest vs Livingstone Bramble in Buffalo, New York. It was to be another Mancini all-out style bout, this time he came on the losing end, defeated after 14 intense rounds. He gave up his title, but not before a brave effort, the immediate result of which was an overnight stay at an hospital and 71 stitches around his eye.
Mancini was not done, and he would come back twice again for world title attempts, one of which produced the now famous phrase of his: 'If you stop it, I'll kill ya!!!'. He said that to referee Mills Lane, who refereed his rematch with Bramble, which he lost after another noble effort by a close but unanimous 15 round decision in 1985. His next attempt would come in 1988, but this time he was outboxed by Hector 'Macho' Camacho, losing a unanimous decision.
Mancini retired officially in 1993, leaving a record of 29-5 with 23 knockouts and a very touching and inspiring story as a brave world champion who won the title for his family, as well as for himself.
He remains very accessible to his fans and loves taking photos, talking to them and signing autographs for them.