The Good Son is Great Stuff

“The Good Son,” a documentary about Ray Mancini and his father and Deuk-Koo Kim and his son, a movie based on Mark Kriegel’s acclaimed 2012 book of the same title, is excellent – better textured than most contemporary documentaries, and considerably more affecting than what “documentaries” HBO and Showtime often use to promote our sport. That is because of Mancini, a man whose physical stature is slighter, and whose humanity is larger, than most likely remember them. One forgets that Mancini, after making the cognomen “Boom Boom” nearly ubiquitous as “Sugar,” was retired before his 25th birthday, after his second loss to Livingstone Bramble, in 1985 – with a nonstarter decision loss to the late Hector Camacho four years later and a hopeless knockout loss to Greg Haugen three years after that.

A theme of the movie’s second third, one that feels assembled by a publicity team more than its otherwise serious collaborators, goes something like: “Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini had it all and was poised to have it all – and have it all! – if he could just get past one hardscrabble case from South Korea, an anonymous fighter from humble beginnings named Deuk-Koo Kim. But their fight would change everything.” Whatever veracity this claim has gets an assist from Bob Arum, who promoted Mancini and performs with magical authority before the camera, equal parts age and intelligence and presence, informing us that in 1982 this lightweight prodigy from Youngstown, Ohio, was on the precipice of overwhelming every limit of national consciousness previously imposed on prizefighters. This claim is best appreciated in the absence of Mancini’s having been stopped by Arguello in 1981, and in the absence of Arum’s having made even more outlandish claims 25 years later about a different prodigy from Youngstown.

Genuineness is a quality quite routinely sacrificed at the altar of reality; today, everyone is an actor, a person who absorbs lines written by others until he is able to deliver them like his identity depends on it, and all the more passionately with a recording device in the vicinity. Mancini has long pursued and at times enjoyed an acting career, but he appears to have left his craftsmanship elsewhere as he invites the son and fiancée of Deuk-Koo Kim to meet his family and eat at his dinner table.

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