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Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini on His Surreal Time Sparring With Bob Dylan in the Boxing Ring

n 1963, Bob Dylan wrote and performed a ballad about the ring death of Davey Moore, the featherweight champion who collapsed and died shortly after being stopped by Sugar Ramos in March of 1959. Back then, the song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”, was a regular fixture in Dylan concerts.

It ends with this punch of a refrain:

Who killed Davey Moore / Why an’ what’s the reason for? / “Not me,” says the man whose fists / Laid him low in a cloud of mist, / Who came here from Cuba’s door / Where boxing ain’t allowed no more. / “I hit him, yes, it’s true, / But that’s what I am paid to do. / Don’t say ‘murder,’ don't say ‘kill.’ / It was destiny, it was God’s will.” / Who killed Davey Moore, / Why an’ what’s the reason for?

To listen to the twenty-something Dylan’s piercing ballad, you would think he was belting out an urgent call to banish professional boxing. Not exactly.

Dylan’s relationship to the bruising game is more complicated, if not downright positive. In his 1964 ditty “I shall be Free #10,” a playful Dylan sang:

I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay I said “Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come.”

Forget banishing the sport—the scrawny bard has been described as a boxing addict who, among other things, co-wrote the protest song “Hurricane,” in defense of then imprisoned middleweight Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, befriended former light-heavyweight champ Donny Lalonde, popped into the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles in 2014 to watch Manny Pacquiao prepare for his rematch with Timothy Bradley.

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