In the past three years, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini has rubbed elbows with Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Spike Lee while making movies and appearing in the off-Broadway play, "Siddown."
Tomorrow night in Reno, Nev., the former lightweight champion will trade punches with Greg Haugen for a $500,000 purse and a $50,000 side bet, significantly more than he has earned from actor's equity.
But the boxer-turned-actor seems to have his priorities in order.
"I had a successful career as a fighter, but my career now is acting," said Mancini, 31. "I'm only planning to have a few more fights, hopefully a title match this fall with [WBC super-lightweight champion] Julio Cesar Chavez if I beat Haugen. But by 1993, I expect to kiss fighting goodbye for good.
"Today, boxing for me, is what I'd call a special event. Acting is my life, and I don't do it just for money. In acting, I'm just a contender. I'm still building my career. When the fights are over, I'll again be devoting all my time and energy to improving my
Mancini, who ruled the lightweight division from 1982 to 1984 before losing his title to Livingston Bramble, has been stereotyped in his movie roles.
"I've been playing mostly a mob wise-guy or street-tough," he said of his Hollywood parts in "Time Bomb," "Gambling Man," and "Hit Man."
"They didn't really tax my acting ability," he said with a laugh.
"Being on the stage is like being in the ring," he said. "You don't get any second chances. Do it right the first time or be embarrassed. But I got pretty good reviews. One critic said I didn't have a lot of finesse, but provided a lot of energy."
Boxing aficionados said much the same about Mancini, the fighter, before he suffered burnout and quit the ring in 1989 after an aborted comeback match against Hector "Macho" Camacho, in which he lost a 12-round decision.
But Mancini says he has rekindled his fighting spirit in preparing for Haugen, also a former lightweight king.
"I wouldn't be doing this today if the public didn't want to see me fight," he said.