Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini just wants to talk about the fight, not about whether his rematch against Livingston Bramble for the World Boxing Assn. lightweight title Feb. 16 at Reno, Nev., will close his career.
Yes, Mancini took a battering when he was stopped by Bramble in the 14th round in losing the title last June 1 at Buffalo, N.Y., but he's been physically OK . . . and he's a fighter.
After the title loss, some members of the media suggested Mancini retire, although he is only 23 years old. That was only his second loss compared to 29 wins, but critics felt his aggressive style was getting him punished too much. Besides, he had made several million dollars in the ring. Shouldn't that be enough?
Now the retirement question, which must seem more bothersome to Mancini than an opponent's jab, is again being asked.
"I'll answer that that night . . . maybe," Mancini said.
"He gives no indication of not being able to continue," said Dave Wolf, Mancini's manager.
"It's ridiculous to lock ourselves in if we lose. It's not the outcome, it's how he fights.
"If we win, our alternatives are so obvious and so lucrative there's no reason to dwell on this."
A Mancini win could set up a fight for the undisputed lightweight title against Jose Luis Ramirez, the World Boxing Council champion, or one against unbeaten Aaron Pryor, or maybe one against Harry Arroyo, the International Boxing Federation champion who, like Mancini, is from Youngstown, Ohio.
Another option would be for Mancini to quit on top. That's a challenge that many fighters are unable to meet.
"This is the fight that Ray Mancini wanted," Wolf said of the rematch against Bramble. "Ray Mancini's accomplishments have earned him the right to make that choice."
Critics of boxing often forget that fighters fight by choice. Of course, the sport should be strictly supervised in the areas of safety and competence, and boxers failing to meet certain standards should not be licensed. Neither should promoters, managers, trainers and seconds.
Mancini will go into the rematch without having had a fight since his title loss. He was supposed to have fought last Kenny Bogner last Sept. 8 at New Orleans, but it was called off when a cut Mancini suffered over his left eye in sparring didn't heal in time.
But while their might be some ring rust, there is not question in the minds of Mancini and Wolfe about the fighter's fitness. Wolf maintains the question of when Mancini will retire would already have been answered if the boxer was not in top shape.
Last June 27, 26 days after losing to Bramble, Mancini had a brain scan done, according to his personal physician, Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, who said the films of the scan were reviewed by the radiologist, whose impression was that it was a normal scan.
In a letter to Wolf on Aug. 23, Schwartz also said that on June 28 Mancini was cleared by Dr. Ronald A. Hoffman, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and that on July 5 Dr. Gerald Smallberg, a neurologist, concluded that Mancini had no clinical evidence of neurological disease.
Schwartz told Wolf that he had given Mancini a complete orthopedic examination and found no evidence of any orthopedic problems.
Apparently free of physical problems, Mancini still has the problem of dealing with Bramble's style.