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Menefee

Ray Menefee (left) works the corner for his son Tony Menefee during Tony's amateur boxing days.

As a boxer, he was tough, savvy and skilled, but was a relatively light puncher.

However, he made a profound impact on the Lincoln boxing scene for several years, until the late 1990s.

Ray Menefee trained amateur and professional fighters before turning much of his attention in the late 1980s and '90s to managing and promoting — with much of his energy devoted to his son's career.

"My dad even made me sign a damned contract with him," Tony Menefee recalled with a chuckle. "He told me that he wasn't going to build my ass up only to have someone come in and steal me.

"He was like my best friend, too, for so many years."

Ray Menefee died Monday at Methodist Hospital in Omaha. He spent the past several years at a brain-injury rehabilitation center in Omaha "with wonderful people he felt were his family." However, "His organs were shutting down," Tony Menefee said. "He had an infection he could not get rid of."

Menefee was 63. He spent the past 17-plus years trying to battle back from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He experienced ups and downs, his son said.

"His passing makes me really think about what we celebrate in life and what we enjoy in life," Tony Menefee said. "Dad always said life is what you make of it."

Much of Ray Menefee's life was about boxing. He trained fighters in gyms and even in his garage. As a promoter, he orchestrated professional boxing shows that have become obsolete in Lincoln. As his son's trainer and manager, Ray helped set up bouts with the likes of former world champion Roberto Duran.

Duran stopped the younger Menefee in the eighth round in 1993 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

A good fighter in his own right, Ray Menefee won three Golden Gloves Midwest Regional titles, becoming a crowd favorite because of his toughness and skill. During the mid-1980s, as a pro, he held the World Athletic Association lightweight title belt.

In the late '80s, he still was ranked as high as No. 14 among light welterweights in the Mid-American ratings.

"The thing is, he was a brawler," the 42-year-old Tony Menefee said. "He would come straight at you. He would take a punch to give a punch. That's why he was so influential on me about defense. He would say, 'You're not to get hit, Tony. You need to keep your damned hands up.'

"Toward the end of my career, I was taking fights on short notice. It was wrong. I would do things so differently today if I could. I really think I could do a heck of a lot better and differently, but I don't have that option."

He also thought his dad fought too many fights.

However, "That's neither here nor there now," Tony said. "He was so happy to still be alive and to be able to see his grandkids grow up. He'd go to his AA meetings. All of that. It was just incredible."

Tony Menefee has two sons, 21-year-old Nicholas and 17-year-old Luke. When Nicholas was much younger, Tony said, Ray had him convinced his middle name was "Knuckles."

"We still laugh about that," Tony said.

A memorial service/celebration of life for Ray Menefee will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Center For People In Need at 3901 N. 27th St. in Lincoln.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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