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Kathy Duva reminisces about Livingstone Bramble-Ray Mancini

Photo courtesy of THE RING archives
10
Nov

In 1984, Livingstone Bramble was named as the mandatory challenger to Ray Mancini’s WBA lightweight title. The fight was scheduled for June 1 and turned out to be a rather lively promotion.

At the time, Main Events was in its infancy as a promoter and head honcho Dan Duva was offered a sizable site fee by the Buffalo Convention Center to bring the world title doubleheader featuring Mancini-Bramble and Johnny Bumphus-Gene Hatcher to their venue.

“They got it in their head they were going to have a fight,” Kathy Duva, now-CEO of Main Events, told RingTV.com. “We had done a fight in Reno with the convention authority between Ray Leonard and Bruce Finch (in February 1982). That had been fairly successful for them. The people in Buffalo, I think, knew them and got the idea from them that they wanted to do this.”

Despite having earned his title shot, Bramble was tabbed as a 4-1 underdog with the bookmakers, such was their faith in the hugely popular Mancini.

“Bramble was not favored to win. He wasn’t expected to be competitive actually by anyone but us,” reminisced Duva. “I remember watching tapes of Mancini with my husband and saying, ‘Pretend that’s not Ray Mancini and tell me Bramble can’t beat this guy,’ and he kept going, ‘But it’s Ray Mancini.’ I said, ‘I know but I think Bramble can beat this guy.’

When the Duvas arrived in upstate New York, they set about promoting the event and selling the all important tickets. Bramble had his own ideas on what he could do to help his cause.

“Bramble, wanting to unnerve Mancini – because he was quite the game player – not just with Mancini but with us, we thought he was crazy,” she said.  “But he played this role so beautifully.

“He showed up at the fight with a guy who he identified as ‘Dr. Doo,’ he said. Dr Doo was his priest or something. He made it up. There was no such thing. The guy showed up and he was carrying a medical bag, like a doctor’s bag. He was wearing this dashiki, a bowler hat, a stick that looked like a diviner rod. He kept chanting and waving it. He made quite an odd impression. All done by Bramble, on his own. We didn’t know who the guy was or where he came from.”

It clearly had an effect on Mancini.

“At one point, Ray got very upset,” recounted the matriarch. “Being religious, he brought his priest there and that was when we knew Bramble got into his head.

“I remember there was an incident where Ray got very upset about this and he stopped doing interviews and that was a problem for us. So my husband pulled Bramble aside and said, ‘Go out there in front of the TV camera and media at the workouts and say you heard Ray got so beat up in sparring, that he has swelling on his face. That’s why he won’t do interviews,’ and Bramble did it. Ten minutes later, Ray was doing interviews (laughs).”

Mancini didn’t just bu into Bramble’s shtick; everyone did.

“Two of the reporters, the legendary Dick Young from the Daily News and Elmer Smith, who wrote for one of the Philadelphia papers, and they got into a screaming match in the press room,” she explained, “because Elmer was taking the position that Bramble was a Rastafarian and he was honoring his religious beliefs and Dick thought this was all a load of bunk.

“Turns out Dick was right. It was a lot of bunk but Elmer was feeling the right thing to do would be not to mock this because it was his religious choice. There was a lot of back-and-forth in the press room about this, wonderful stories getting written every day.”

Duva further stoked those fires by embellishing a story to Sports Illustrated.

“Bramble used to enter the ring to the Bob Marley song “Buffalo Soldier,” so I remember telling Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated the stories about black soldiers in the Southwest in the early part of the American frontier days,” she said laughing. “I had made up the story that because Bramble’s a Rastafarian – turns out I’m not sure he is – because this was the perception. He had the dreadlocks. He wore the cap with the colors. He stood out.

“I told Pat that Bramble said he’s going to fight this war for all the Ethiopians who were killed in the war against Italy in the 19th century (laughs) and Mancini got really upset because of his Italian side. It was fun and I’m friends with Ray now. He’s one of the nicest people in the world but Ray wasn’t too hard to get him upset and Bramble was having a ball doing it. We were doing our best to publicize that because it was selling the fight.”

Of course for all of the shenanigans, there was still a fight to be won.

 

 

A close fight ensued and, after 13 rounds, Mancini was ahead on two of the scorecards but Bramble was able to pull one of the upsets of the year, stopping the brave champion in the penultimate round.

After the fight, Bramble and his team were about to leave the press room in the basement of the Convention Center when things came full circle.

Duva said, with a chuckle, “Jerry Izenberg from the New York Star Ledger looked up from his typewriter and said, ‘So Bramble, who’s Dr. Doo?’ and Bramble said, ‘He’s my CYO (Christian Youth Organization) basketball coach.’ (laughing).

“That was the first time we found out who Dr. Doo was. In these more politically correct times, I don’t think we could have pulled that off but it was 100 percent Bramble. It was all his idea. He conceived it. He executed it. He did the whole thing.”

Looking back, Duva recognizes that, in many ways, the eccentric Bramble was a lot shrewder than people thought.

“He worked hard and cultivated this personality that made him very marketable,” she said.  “We were doing fine with him selling tickets up in Ice World (Totowa, New Jersey). He had a dog named ‘Snake’ and a snake named ‘Dog.’ I remember someone went to interview him at his apartment and they saw a cat skin hanging on the wall and asked him about it and he said, ‘Don’t want to waste a good cat.’ (laughing)

“People were writing these incredulous stories and, as it turned out, Bramble was very much an animal lover and ultimately ended up living on a farm, I learned later, in Sussex County, a place where he rescued wildlife. He’s more of a naturalist. He was ahead of his time, in many ways.

“The Rastafarian thing, which was very new at the time, the way he dressed, the fact he recognized creating this odd persona would get him publicity. We didn’t tell him to do any of this. He did it all on his own. Again, he had us convinced he was out of his mind. It was an act but he put it on all of the time.

“When I met him years later and we had this conversation and I said, ‘Oh my God, you’re normal!’ and he goes, ‘Well, yeah!’ (laughs) I said, ‘We thought you were crazy,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s what I wanted everybody to think.'”

The fight will live long in the memory for another reason. During the process of the fight coming to fruition, Duva was pregnant with her second-born daughter.

“My daughter Lisa, the day she was born, my husband wasn’t there because he was on Margarita Island at a WBA convention making sure they didn’t screw us over and Bramble got the mandatory fight,” she  said. “My daughter’s middle name is Margaret and that’s why. I didn’t want to name her Margarita, so I toned it down a little. Every time I told this story, my husband would get so mad because he was such a good father and it killed him that he missed that.”

Stay tuned for a “Best I Faced” featuring Bramble.

 

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected]  and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.

 

 

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