Boom Boom Mancini, Duk Koo Kim, Iron Men and never backing down

Among other interests, I have a relatively recent love of boxing and a much older love of the musician Warren Zevon (who wrote a song about Boom Boom Mancini).  I have found boxing metaphorically more accessible to modern audiences and a bit more cross cultural than direct references to berserks and gangr.  It allows one to compare the style of a very technical fighter to a more brutal one and this can translate well in analogies.  Additionally, it is far more practical for me to study boxing directly and participate than it would be to be seen swinging an axe. 

This post/observation ties to the story of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, another boxer named Duk Koo Kim, the very old boxing concept of the “Iron Man” and the price of a No Retreat, No Surrender mindset. 

First, some links for Boom Boom Mancini and Duk Koo Kim: (Also Duk Koo Kim)

Second, on the concept of the Iron Man.  My first encounter of the term is actually from the works of Robert E. Howard, himself an amateur boxer and a great lover of Iron Men.  The core concept is a fighter who wins by “toughing it out” rather than skill.  Here are two links relating to the Iron Man: (It is a bit puffed up with a lot of boxing jargon.)

A link to a copy of Howard’s story:

The basic concept is of a man who wins less by being a great technical boxer and more by being able to take a tremendous amount of punishment.  That is also the nature of the protagonist in the story.  Howard’s other boxing characters are very similar.  The concept, at least back in the pre-WW2 era, was that an Iron Man was very tough and won by out lasting a better boxer.  As I said above, I feel it is a reasonably more modern metaphor for the berserk, with some variances.

My core point is that, in boxing, like in some other areas of life, there is a focus on fighting spirit, “heart” or “sand”.  You also see this in the Rocky movies, as the main character there is less about technique and more about taking an incredible beating and then rising to still defeat his opponent.  The “tough it out” approach.  This is also a core element to our vision of the berserk, the man who is all attack and never backs down.  It is an appealing image, especially to a certain sort of macho/tough guy stereotype.  I understand why that non compromising stance seems so appealing to us and why we respect it when we see it and idolize it in story.  In some ways, that never back down element is a strong part of the Fire path.  But, it is ALSO what killed Duk Koo Kim.

Remember him?  He was the one Boom Boom Mancini fought in the ring and partially what the song I linked was about.  Duk Koo Kim was a little known but very tough fighter from Korea who won mostly by never giving up.   Kim was a small town boxer and Korean champion who never backed down and ended up, somehow, fighting well above his league.  As mentioned in the second article above, a reporter saw “Live or Die” in Korean on a lamp shade.  Sadly, that was prophetic.

From the New York Daily News article:

Mancini dropped Kim in the 14th, and though he beat the 10 count, Green stopped the fight. While Mancini was celebrating the victory, Kim collapsed in the corner. He was carried out of the ring on a stretcher and rushed to Las Vegas’ Desert Springs Hospital, where he had 2½  hours of surgery on his brain to remove a blood clot and relieve pressure in his skull.

“I thought I could save him,” says neurosurgeon Lonnie Hammagren, who specializes in treating fighters. “I was able to remove the blood clot,  but the pressure was so high that there was no blood flow to his brain.”

Kim had no brain function and lingered in a coma for four days on life support.

Kim fought valiantly, never gave up, took tremendous punishment and it KILLED him.  I use this as an example of the limitations of a pure Fire/Berserk/Tough Guy mindset.  I think it has great value, and there are times such an approach may be needed but remember that our adrenal response is for Fight AND Flight.  There are times to back away and many more times never to fight in the first place.  Much as we may idolize Iron Men and those that never back down or compromise, the metaphor and the example has some severe flaws. 

There are additional elements to the story.  On the positive, it changed boxing significantly with the dropping of 15 round fights, stronger medical supervision and more pressure on referees to stop fights that seem too one sided. (Compare the actions of referees in older fights to newer ones and you will see a difference.) On the negative, the mother Duk Koo Kim and the referee of the fight committed suicide within less than a year and Mancini was haunted by the death for the rest of his career and beyond. 

In earlier posts, I have talked about community and the importance of community to helping someone walk a Fire path.  It is important to have positive Passions that help guide us and give us a Home Base:

There and elsewhere, I talk about the importance of our community to us.  Remember, none of us stands alone and everything we do touches others.  In our rage, we can forget this.  Work to remember that you are part of something more than you sometimes see.  Our standing and fighting with Passion is very powerful but sometimes it i so powerful that it can incinerate us and burn those around us.

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