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February 20, 2009 - Joe Gorman
Preparations are winding down for not only the big fight tomorrow night as Kelly Pavlik gets set to defend his crown just a stone's throw away from the Cornell Avenue home on the South Side where he grew up, but also for the city's chance to shine in the spotlight.
There's been some talk this week about the last championship fight in the area, when Ray ``Boom Boom' Mancini defended his lightweight crown in front of a sweltering crowd at Mollenkopf Stadium on a July afternoon in the early 1980s.
Although the local media is hyping the Pavlik fight without mercy, I think the Mancini fight was a bigger event for a couple of reasons.
First, is the fact that everyone could see the Mancini fight for free. There was no forcing someone to cough up forty or fifty bucks to catch it on pay per view, which has killed boxing for the masses. This allowed everyone here who couldn't attend the fight to watch it and be a part of it.
Second, was the times. Although we are in an economic slump now that rivaled Mancini's heyday, Boom Boom came of age in the wake of Black Monday, when we were down about as far as we could go and needed a jolt of something to make us feel good.
Third, was the man himself. Mancini's story -- who can forget the movie, ``I Walk In Your Shadow?' -- about his personal quest to right the wrong done to his father, who was denied a chance at the title because of World War II is something straight out of central casting. And he was charismatic. I wish I was a sportswriter back then. I don't think I would've had any trouble getting him to talk.
And fourth, was the song. Who can forget the Pat Travers classic, ``Boom Boom Boom OUT GO THE LIGHTS!' I know it's a cover, but it is the anthems of Youngstown (in fact, it should be played more).
And last, there's my childhood. One of my most prized possessions was an autograph from Mancini that my grandfather pried out of his godfather. And I also remember the day of the fight in Warren, although the details are hazy. I do remember it being on our TV, a loud, racous crowd and a blinding white hot sun.
Just about nothing can compete with your childhood.
I hope Pavlik wins, and I'll be pulling for him, but I am not paying to watch it. But maybe I'll dig up my Boom Boom autograph and try to find a copy of ``I Walk in Your Shadow' on DVD.
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