Review: ‘The Good Son’ explores one boxer’s triumph and tragedy

The loaded narrative is vividly fleshed out by chats with Ray's family and friends -- including Sugar Ray Leonard (pictured), Mickey Rourke and Youngstown native Ed O'Neill.

A powerful story of triumph and tragedy — and the infamous moment that encapsulated both — gets a stirring workout in the colorful, absorbing documentary “The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini,” directed by Jesse James Miler, based on the book by Mark Kriegel.

Early-1980s sports icon Ray Mancini grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, idolizing his father, 1940s’ top-ranked lightweight contender Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini, and devoted to his older brother, Lenny Jr., who also briefly boxed. (Lenny Sr., died in 2003; Lenny Jr. was killed in a murky shooting in 1981.) Inspired by his dad, Ray started boxing young, turning pro at age 18.

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In late 1982, at age 21, the then-World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion and media darling defended his title in Las Vegas against Korea’s scrappy Duk Koo Kim. But in the bout’s 14th round, Ray knocked down his 23-year-old opponent, who soon died of brain injuries, leaving behind a pregnant fiancée, Young Mi.


The personal and professional fallout for Mancini is candidly discussed here in warm interviews with Ray, now 52, who remains a charismatic and humble figure ever mindful of — and eternally informed by — Kim’s accidental death.

The loaded narrative is vividly fleshed out by chats with Ray’s family and friends (including Sugar Ray Leonard, Mickey Rourke and Youngstown native Ed O’Neill), veteran promoter Bob Arum and, quite effectively, author Kriegel; equitable interviews with Young Mi, her parents and other Kim observers, plus enjoyable archival footage and photos.

But it’s this smartly shot and conceived film’s closing sequence, in which Ray and his three children meet Young Mi and her — and Kim’s — gentle, now-30-year-old son, Jiwan, in a first-time encounter at the Mancinis’ Santa Monica home, that proves a poignant and graceful bookend to an exceedingly well-told tale.



“The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini”

Rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In English and Korean with English subtitles

Playing at: Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills