Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, excerpt two)

from The Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini by Mark Kriegel:

There is great concern for a slugger in the wake of his first loss by knockout, as that maiden voyage into fistic insentience punctures his self-belief.

"If they're tested prematurely, it kills some kind of fire in them," says Sharnik. "They become blighted--unconsciously, of course--and unable to take the next step. They start thinking 'What if?' Like, 'What if I throw the left, and he counters me?'"

Or, What if I get knocked out?

What if . . .

As this creeping self-doubt tends to afflict big punchers (given to delusions of invincibility early in their careers) more than the craftier boxers (who've already been forced to acknowledge their limitations), one feared the worst for a twenty-year-old like Ray. To that point, he had considered only destiny, not consequence. Sure, bad things happened in the ring, but only to other fighters. Freddy Bowman, for example, Ray's long-time rival in the amateurs, had been knocked out in the same ring where Arguello TKO'd Ray. Now Bowman, from the east side of Youngstown, lay comatose in the Mahoning County Nursing Home, where he would eventually expire, in 1982, thirteen months after the fight.

Ray was saddened by the news, but willfully ignorant of the details. Truth was, he didn't want to know anything about Freddy Bowman's death. It wasn't insensitivity. It was self-preservation. Still, Ray's handlers wondered how long before he started pondering the what-if question. Ray's sense of his mission might've bordered on the divine, but at some point he'd start wondering, "Where but for the grace of God go I?" For a fighter, the only thing worse than getting knocked out, is having time to think about it. Hence, the decision was made to get Ray back in the ring as soon as possible.

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