Remembering Lenny "Boom Boom" Mancini
The recent release of former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini's new book "The Good Son," which is also a movie documentary, is based on a true story about heartbreak and inspiration between a father and son. And while the focus is on Ray, it was his veteran boxer Lenny "Boom Boom" Mancini who laid the foundation for his son's career. And although he will be best remembered as the father of Ray, Lenny was a pretty darn good fighter in his own right.
Lenny was born in Youngstown, Ohio on July 12, 1919. The city of Youngstown and the surrounding areas produced outstanding fistic talent in the 1940′s with the likes of Tony Janiro, Tommy Bell and Sonny Horne, and Lenny was among the talented Y'town exports.
Standing at 5′ 2″, Lenny, who turned pro in the late 30′s, slugged his way to a world ranking during the glorious 40′s. He was an extremely popular attraction in New York as he climbed the ratings ladder, despite losing an eight rounder to tough Johnny Rinaldi in December of 1939.
Lenny bounced back in 1940 fighting a six round draw with future welterweight king Marty Servo before kayoing Frankie Terranova and outscoring Joey Fontana. He then drew with Jimmy Vaughn and again outpointed Fontana. Lenny then took a tough decision over Carl "Red" Guggino and closed out the year splitting a pair of eight round verdicts with Irving Eldridge.
In 1941 he lost on points to the highly respected Leo Rodak. He came back to defeat Billy Marquart over ten in New York and then again in a Cleveland rematch.
On May 19, 1941 Lenny met National Boxing Association lightweight champion Sammy Angott in a non-title fight at Cleveland's Public Hall. After ten grueling rounds Angott was awarded an unpopular split decision.
Lenny would never receive a shot at the crown. In his next fight, he drew with Terry Young and in August he lost on points to Pete Lello. Still, Lenny and Canadian Dave Castilloux were considered the top two lightweight contenders. On November 11 Lenny went to Montreal and won a convincing decision over Castilloux.
Mancini served his country during the war and when he got out, he was close to being a heavyweight! He still had the burning desire to be a champion so he returned to training and came back as a welterweight. The elder "Boom Boom" continued to be a good drawing card in New York but his career never really got back on track.
In 1946 he lost to Phil Palmer, to Harry Hurst on two occasions, and he dropped another to Johnny Williams. In 1947, Lenny gave it one last try at middleweight losing to the gifted Rocky Castellani at Madison Square Garden and then in a rematch in Scranton.
Lenny had around 70 professional fights among fast company and was NEVER knocked out! One can only wonder if he had not been called off to war, would he have won the crown?
How proud he must have been when his son Ray captured the W.B.A. version of the title in May of 1982.
Pictured: Boxing great and former lightweight champion, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Lenny's son. The elder Mancini's dream of a world title happened for Ray four decades later.
The career of Ray Mancini has been extensively covered in the past. No sense in re-hashing it here. All that can be said is that he did his father proud, inside and outside of the ring.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lenny Mancini at a fight show in Youngstown back in 1994. He was very easy to approach and was nice enough to sign a photo I had of him in his fighting stance. I only wish now I would have had more time to have talked to him.
Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim's other works and "Legends of Leather" articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.