NBCSN is providing a live, two bout lead-in for the TV debut of the The Good Son: The Ray Mancini Story.
Stepping into the ring at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Dec. 14, the documentary, from Jesse James Miller ("The Roots of Fight") based on Mark Kreigel’s book of the same name, provides boxing fans, both old enough to remember or new to the sweet science and its history, with a recount of the fateful 14th round in Mancini’s Nov. 13, 1982 bout against the South Korean fighter Duk-koo Kim. A tough, slugfest matching mirror-image, determined, pressing-forward fighters resulted in Mancini’s mortal TKO that left Kim’s pregnant fiancée to bear their child alone.
The film traces the story of fathers and sons, chronicling Mancini’s adulation of his padre Lenny, a promising lightweight of his own before World War II shrapnel derailed his career. Boom Boom’s boom and his emergence from working-class roots in Ohio -- Kreigel's voice clearly conveys the meaning of the town's proclivity toward tune-ups -- to national prominence is also described by fellow Youngstowner Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), boxing giant Sugar Ray Leonard and local friends.
In that vein, the doc also shines a light on a time that has passed: the broadcast networks used to regularly air weekend afternoon, championship bouts. Indeed, CBS and announcer Tim Ryan are prominently featured in the film. Mancini’s rise brought him celebrity and the embrace of Sylvester Stallone, Billy Crystal and Frank Sinatra.
The Good Son also crosses to the other side to meet with the aggrieved family through visits with Kim’s fiancée and his trainer, offering some insights about the deceased. Kim, too, shared a hunger for the fight game, as a means to escape his dysfunctional, familial past. He admired his lover's family, which eventually looked past his brutish profession and saw the beneath the gloves.
Alongside the American’s emotional moments, these subtitled interviews set the doc forward to its conclusion: a redemptive meeting between the guilt-stricken Mancini and Kim’s son, Jiwan, and his mother still trying to make sense of their anger and loss 30 years after the fact.
While Mancini’s back story and the rough-and-tumble world of Youngstown are compelling, not nearly enough time is spent on Boom Boom’s life since the tragedy and more importantly the union of these sons of boxers.