"A turnout beyond expectations," is how Joe Cilone of Calcutta Health Care expressed his opinion on Wednesday's open house featuring middleweight champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik and former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini.
Wednesday's open house, which included tours of the health care facility, free screenings and plenty of food, drew a crowd estimated between 1,000 and 1,500.
Mancini wore the WBA boxing crown from May, 1982-June, 1984.
The talkative Youngstowner said of the long line for autographs, "It's a beautiful thing. Believe me, it beats the alternative of 'forget the bum.' I've had that happen and this is so much better."
Mancini was scheduled to appear from 2 to 5, but actually signed from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
"I loved it," said Mancini with a huge smile. "The people waited in line so long to meet me. I didn't want to disappoint them."
An energetic boxer in the ring, Mancini displays the same energy in the business world. The owner of a movie production company and a cigar company, Mancini is currently working on plans for a movie production studio in Youngstown.
"It's going to happen," said the former boxer. "We're already looking at buildings. I am constantly hearing from movie companies looking to film in a city such as Youngstown. They want me to act as a liaison to find them sites."
Morning Journal photographer Aaron Rudolph, whose photographs grace this paper on a regular basis, worked for Mancini on his 2001 film project, "Turn of Faith", which was filmed in Youngstown. Rudolph's job was to shoot photos of possible locations for the various shots and take them back to Mancini.
Once Mancini's studio is built, he hopes to use it not only for his own projects, but also lease space and services to other film companies.
Mancini is no stranger to being front of the camera. He just finished acting in the role of K.C., a boxing trainer in "The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone", which is in the final stages of production. His own company is ticketed to produce six films with the first one slated to begin production later this fall.
Pavlik was an equally big draw at Calcutta Health Care, staying over his two-hour session to accommodate the fans. The WBC and WBO middleweight champion, Pavlik is stepping in weight for his Oct. 18 battle with former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. The non-title bout will take place at a catch-weight of 170 pounds.
"It should be a good one," said Pavlik of his upcoming fight. "He is a dangerous fighter. There weren't any other fights out there. We had to stay busy. I'll be fighting 10 pounds heavier than my last fight, but I will have to get down to 170. I'm about 174 now."
Training camp will begin in earnest in two weeks, allowing Pavlik a few more days to eat "some good food".
On meeting up with Hopkins, Pavlik said, "No one has KOed him. The quicker I can get him, the better. I don't care if the fight only lasts 30 seconds, as long as I win."
After his signing session was over, Pavlik took the time to visit a patient in a room who was unable to make it to the dining room to see him.
"I'm a simple person," Pavlik said. "I enjoy meeting people and helping those who need help. That's why I'm so willing to help charities. It's awesome to do a charity event and to know that you helped a little bit."
While he enjoyed signing so many autographs, Pavlik did express a concern that the last few may not have been as legible as the earlier ones were.
"The letters started to run together a little," said the champion with a laugh. "When they look at their autographs, they'll know that I definitely be a boxer as my handwriting is so bad. The plus side is that all that work signing will make my left hand stronger, making left hook better."
As he took a minute to catch his breath after an exhilarating, but tiring day, Cilone said, "We are very happy to have both Ray and Kelly serve as the spokespersons for our open house. They brought the public in. It gave us an opportunity to show the public what we do and how we've upgraded the facility."