Body & Soul


Twelve years ago Sports Illustrated sent me out to Los Angeles to profile Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, the former boxing superstar who was trying to make it big in Hollywood.

At the time, Ray was producing, directing and starring in a film, Body & Soul, about a boxer who makes it big, then is seduced by stardom. He considered the movie to be his make-or-break endeavor. Should it have earned rave reviews and drew millions to the theatres, Mancini figured he’d go on to be a huge star. Should it have flopped, however, well, Ray knew it’d cripple his movie hopes forever.

How’d Body & Soul do? Eh, let’s put it this way. Since the movie’s 1998 release, Mancini has five acting credits to his name. They are:

• Playing “KC” in The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone.

• Appearing as a guest on one episode of Inside MMA.

• Playing “George” in Redbelt.

• Playing “Ball Player” in Chooch.

• Playing “Joey” in Turn of Faith.

I’m not writing this to slam Ray, or even to mock him. He gave his all, and it didn’t quite work out. Shit happens. But I have been thinking a lot about Ray these past few days while working on my latest book, a biography due toward the end of this year. I have written four full books, which is beyond my wildest dreams. I truly love the process; love the digging; love searching for tiny nuggets of information. I’m an addict to getting more, more, more, and my wife will surely attest to my addiction. This book, however, has taken me to a new level. It’s The One; the biography I’ve been itching to write for more than a decade. The story is amazing; the main character profound; the supporting players diverse and unique and unconventional. I am putting my absolute all into this thing—have already interviewed well over 500 people, and I’m not even close to wrapping up the reporting.

In short, what Body & Soul was to Boom Boom, this project is to Pearl Pearl.

So what if it fails?

I never think this way, but I’ll allow myself a moment. What if this book totally flops, and no one buys it? How would I react to devoting two years of my life to an ultimately fruitless endeavor? It was hard enough when the Bonds book flopped—and with that I had a viable excuse (Game of Shadows). But here, there’ll be none. No one else is tackling the same subject.

If the ball drops, it’ll be because of my slippery hands.