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A QUESTION OF AUTHORITY
THORN IN THE CROWN
Livingstone Bramble is entangled in a controversy as prickly as the shrub he's named for. The WBA lightweight champ, who defended his title with a unanimous 15-round decision over Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini in Reno on Feb. 16, may have to forfeit his crown because traces of a banned stimulant were found in a post-fight urinalysis. The drug, ephedrine, is commonly found in over-the-counter cold medications and nasal sprays.
The Nevada Athletic Commission considers the violation serious and will discuss possible sanctions against Bramble at a meeting next week. But promoter Dan Duva, whose father, Lou, trained Bramble, says it's all an honest mistake. He claims Bramble had a stuffy nose before the bout and may have inadvertently used a decongestant containing the drug. The Duvas, whose relations with their fighter have long been strained, insist they never knew Bramble was under medication. But they acknowledge that before the fight Bramble's cut man, Ace Marotta, asked officials about using an ephedrine-based nasal spray in the ring and was told the drug was prohibited by both the Nevada Athletic Commission and the WBA.
Ironically, neither of those organizations requires postfight urine tests. It was only at Bramble's insistence that stringent drug-checking procedures were implemented in the first place. His camp had accused Mancini's handlers of using monsel solution, a potentially blinding, iron-based cauterizing agent, to close a deep gash over their fighter's right eye during the first Bramble-Mancini bout last June. Mancini's manager, Dave Wolf, denies that such an agent was used and says that Bramble's people raised the issue only to hype the rematch.
At a rules meeting attended by both camps the day before the rematch, a WBA official explained that any fighter found using illegal drugs, alcohol or stimulants would be disqualified. "We'd never thought of nasal spray as a drug before," says Dan Duva's wife, Cathy, who serves as Bramble's publicist. "To expect a fighter to come into the ring armed with a chemist's degree is ridiculous."
"That's preposterous!" counters Wolf. "The Duvas didn't need to use a decongestant with a stimulant in it. The fact is that it was in Bramble's system, and it gave him an illegal edge. As far as we're concerned, he should be disqualified and Ray should be declared champion." Of course, the WBA could simply declare the title vacant and force yet another rematch.
Given the many abuses in boxing, this fuss over nasal spray—if that's all that's involved—can be seen as trifling. Still, rules are rules, and Bramble's camp hasn't yet satisfactorily explained why this one was broken. "You're pretty irresponsible if your fighter is using a drug and you don't know what's in it," says Wolf. "If the Duvas didn't do their homework, they'll have to pay the price."
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