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If they'd fought this one in a saloon, the cops would have stopped it. Then they would have arrested Livingstone Bramble. The other brawler, Boom Boom Mancini, would have gone free: The guy with the face that looks as if it has just been hammered with a brick always gets a pass.
But the authorities let this bout go the distance, and even the courage of a beaten Mancini couldn't overshadow the shame the fight racket visited on Reno Saturday night.
Then the three judges compounded matters by indicating that Mancini had been in the hunt, that Bramble had escaped with his WBA lightweight title by the thinnest of margins. Although they followed different routes, at the end, Dave Moretti, Jimmy Rondeau and Edward Levine all had it figured that Bramble had won by a single point. One had only to look at Mancini's swollen and battered face, his slammed-shut left eye and the blood pouring from long rips above that eye and beside the right one to wonder what fight the judges had watched.
HBO, which telecast the bout, offered a fourth computation: the counting of blows by a computer. According to the machine, Bramble landed 674 punches to Mancini's 381. Even if one gave the computer's 3% to 5% margin for error to Mancini, if those were the totals of a one-point fight, then Custer was only a couple of arrows away from a draw at the Little Bighorn.
This was the rematch of a fight last June in Buffalo, where the title changed hands after the referee rescued Mancini from the eccentric Bramble's fists in the 14th round. In that one, too, Bramble was assaulted by the math and logic of the WBA's judges. At the end, two out of three had Mancini out in front.
"If I'd lost that fight, I'd have been finished," Bramble, 24 and now 23-1-1 as a pro, groused a few days before the second fight. Even his checkered Rastafarian tarn was at an angry angle. "Not like Mancini. He's the ail-American boy. One loss for me, and I'm wolf meat. So, I'm going to win and win, and when I lose, I'm gone."
Bramble also mentioned the fact that he wasn't too happy with the media for making him out to be some kind of loony. He registered this objection the day after he'd sparred two rounds with a pair of chickens, shadowboxed one round with a newly purchased Burmese python named Turtle and spent one round punching soap bubbles blown from a red pipe by his latest trainer, Nel Brown.
"Mancini is an arrogant fool, and I hope he gets seriously hurt in this fight," said Bramble, now on a fiery roll.
"How seriously?" asked a stunned listener.
Bramble weighed the question, and then backed off. "Seriously enough for the referee to count to 10," he said.