Bramble seems to cultivate eccentricity; consequently, he's a promoter's nightmare. He resists being photographed, and he doesn't like being interviewed. The media, he believes, make him into a kook. "The truth is," says Duva, "he is a kook. After every one of his fights I commit myself to a mental institution for 10 days to recuperate."
Duva and Bramble argue heatedly over training schedules, money, weight and personal deportment. "Bramble's the only fighter in my stable I can't control," says Duva, who handles two other world champs and four Olympic gold medalists, including Mark Breland. "You try to educate Coconut Head, but he doesn't listen; he rebels."
Bramble, who's 22-1-1—a draw in his second fight, with Bruce Williams, and a loss on points to Anthony Fletcher are the only blemishes on his four-year career—has had six trainers. He wanted Sugar Ray Leonard to prepare him for the rematch with Mancini, but Duva explained that Leonard isn't a trainer, so Bramble settled for Ruppert Nel Brown, who trained him when he was an amateur. "If you don't know Bramble, you don't know how to train Bramble," says Brown. "You don't change him. Any change is a step backward."
"The old pirates who work with Bob Arum and Don King try to change you for a dollar," Bramble says. "The more the downpressers try to change me. the stronger I stay. A man is not judged by his hair but by his judgment, his cleanliness and his wisdom. I'm still fighting. I will be stronger as I'm able to keep my culture."
Bramble believes he's a true Israelite, one of the black Hebrews exiled to Babylon. He worships Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975), who on Nov. 2, 1930 was crowned His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Power of the Holy Trinity, 225th Emperor of the 3,000-year-old Ethiopian Empire, Elect of God, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Heir to the Throne of Solomon, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The Rastafarians regard him as Jah, the earthly embodiment of God. "I'm the sole Rasta prizefighter," says Bramble. "I'm the chosen one. This is my destiny."
He also says, "In boxing you coexist with your opponent and become his complement. You absorb his attack and use his force to overcome him."
An inspiration to Bramble is the late Bob Marley, the mystical, militant prophet of reggae who called for blacks to unite against the exploitative forces of the "Babylonian West." Bramble entered the ring for the Mancini fight to the tune of Buffalo Soldier, Marley's paean to black soldiers who fought Indians on the American frontier.
Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta
Stolen from Africa, brought to
America, Fighting on arrival,
fighting for survival.
"Even if I'd lost that fight," Bramble says, "just by playing the music I'd have won. Ever since I came up from the islands I been fighting for myself. People here ambush you night and day."