Youngstown has a big reputation as a boxing town.
But with the city’s most famous boxing club moving, it triggers a question — Is the sport going to last in Youngstown much longer?
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini said fortunately, he got into the sport at the right time. It was in the early 80s when CBS was still featuring boxing.
Kelly Pavlik rejuvenated big-time boxing in Youngstown, but now, the city’s boxing connection is waiting for the next big star.
It could use a Tiger Woods- or Muhammad Ali-type personality to breathe some new life into fighting.
“It’s just like any other sport around the town. The kids are down. The numbers are down,” said boxing coach Jack Loew.
“Just not enough fighters. Boxing has gone way down,” Mancini said.
The South Side Boxing Club — owned by Loew — has played a big part in Youngstown boxing since opening in 1989. It will move soon from its location on Market Street, back to its original location, where the toughness originated.
Mancini said there used to be several boxing gyms around town, but now he can only think of two, which makes it hard for kids to get interested.
“Boxing gyms are just another place for them to channel that energy,” he said. “Sometimes you find out who you are; you learn about yourself, as I did. Going to the gym helped make me the man I am.”
Mancini came from a middle-class family and went to parochial school for 12 years. He believes that many kids are more interested in technology today but that it’s still possible for a great fighter to emerge from anywhere.
“It used to be historically from economically-depressed, but now anybody can have it. If you have a hunger to succeeed, no matter what walks of life you come from,” he said.
That means Youngstown could rise back to the top some day.
South Side’s move will bring some downsizing, but it can’t take away its history, which includes Pavlik, Jake “The Bull” Guriceo, Ken Sigurani, Alejandro “Popo” Salinas and a slew of good amateur fighters.
The next one to come along will have to live up to the hype, Loew said.
“Heads turned, and heads were put down. We were known as that bad-ass gym, and we got to get back to that,” he said.
Mancini has been working in television now, having signed a four-year deal with Fox, which is showing fights and trying to promote the fighters so people know them. He’ll be on Fox Youngstown next on Saturday, April 20.