HOWLAND - If Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini had put his mind to it, he probably would have earned Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts of America.
Instead, the Youngstown lightweight boxing legend went no further than the Cub Scouts because he had another passion - winning a world title for his late father Lenny, the original Boom Boom.
The featured speaker Monday at the Friends of Scouting breakfast at Leo's Ristorante, Mancini spoke about the high standards of the Boy Scouts and the important role scouting plays in the development of tomorrow's leaders. He was the perfect choice because his work ethic and single-minded approach to his boxing career mirror the characteristics of the Boy Scouts.
"Faith, honor, perseverance and responsibility. All those qualities are what my mother and father taught me as a young man that I try to teach my children," Mancini said. "You have to be responsible for your actions in life. Everything you do you have to answer for, good, better or indifferent."
During his speech Mancini mentioned a societal concern that portrays problems for the future. He sees young people wanting instant gratification without putting in the sacrifice and dedication needed to achieve their goals.
Mancini is also concerned about the lack of accountability throughout society.
Tribune Chronicle / Ed Puskas
Ben Shapiro, 12, of Liberty is posing with boxing legend Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini Monday at the annual Friends of Scouting breakfast at Leo’s Ristorante. Mancini autographed a pair of boxing gloves for Ben, whose father was the highest bidder on the item. Ben, who attends Akiva Academy, is the son of Sam and Sabrina Shapiro.
"Just say, 'Hey, I messed up," he said. "When you try to blame everybody but yourself and everyone knows it's you, then this guy is a real jerk.
"These athletes don't want to be responsible for anything. These so-called celebrities will sell their souls for a buck and a quarter. The values that the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts teach are about having honor and responsibility and being a noble person."
The theme of the breakfast, which was sponsored by the Arrowhead District of the Greater Western Reserve Council of the Boy Scouts of America, was a Second Century of Scouting. Area businesses and individuals raised $44,000.
Mancini wasn't admittedly the most talented lightweight in the world when he fought professionally from 1979-92, but he had an ace in the hole - a desire to win the title for his father. Lenny's promising boxing career was interrupted when he was drafted into the military during World War II. Returning from battle with shrapnel wounds and a heavier physique, he never had a shot at a title.
Ray finished with a 29-5 record (23 knockouts). He held the World Boxing Association lightweight crown 25 months before losing it in a decision to Livingstone Bramble.
"I was very blessed," Mancini said. "I was a self-motivated person. That (training) is the most monotonous type of work, but you feed the fuel. It's the dream going on in your mind that gets you up to do the road work; to go to the gym when it's snowing.
"Growing up in an area like Youngstown is a great character builder. My father worked in a sweat factory. My brother worked in the steel mills. That's where I was headed if I didn't have something else."
Mancini was the toast of the Mahoning Valley and one of the most popular boxers in the world in his prime. He fought nine times in the area, including a successful title defense against Ernesto Espana before a packed house at Mollenkopf Stadium July 24, 1982.
There's no question that Mancini fed off the energy generated by his loyal fan base. No matter where he fought, the house was always on his side.
"I've gotten to be very good friends with Sugar Ray Leonard," Mancini said. "He's very complimentary of me. When we were fighting he said he envied me. He envied the following I had locally. He didn't have that. He had it nationally, of course.
"I was very blessed. It was a great time. Timing is everything. It was a few years from the steel mills being shut down. People needed something. I was that guy."