Monday, April 9, 2007

Hey, watch the hair!

On ESPN 2 the other day, they were showing classic boxing matches. The one I caught was the epic second battle between Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Livingstone Bramble for the World Lightweight Championship. It brought to mind a flood of memories and observations.

Ray was probably the last of the great Italian American boxers. The great Italian American boxers all shared three common traits:

1. They had memorable nicknames (come on “Boom Boom” has got to be top 5 great monikers of all time).

2. Their mothers always sat ringside (and if they had passed, a photo of them would be placed ringside because “Mama is always watching.”)

3. Their defense was based on blocking punches with the brim of their nose.

Livingstone Bramble on the other hand was a bit of an oddity. He was a world champion boxer from Saint Kitts and Nevis, I think the first and last one. He was reportedly a practitioner of witchcraft, claimed he cut the head off a chicken to help prepare for fights, and carried a live snake with him into the ring..although I think he found Don King to be quite heavy.

The other unusual thing about Livingstone was his hair. He sported small, tightly wound braids all over his head. This might have been common for voodoo priests in the Caribbean, but not common in the world of pugilists.

His hair always stuck in my memory because of the controversy it caused in the Mancini fight. Mancini’s corner claimed after the first fight that Bramble’s hair was cutting Mancini. (I am not making this up) I am sure it was not the 300 or so punches that Livingstone administered to Mancini’s mug but the prickliness of his “do” that did Boom Boom in.

Never mind, that paper mache was thicker that Mancini's skin. He would start bleeding as soon as he crouched to enter the ring. The ding of the bell would open a cut over his left eye.

But I always wondered if there was some validity to this claim. So I decided I’d try an experiment to prove once and for all if Bramble’s hair shredded Mancini’s face like a grater to a block of mozzarella.

Since I am of Italian ancestry, I nominated myself to be the “guinea pig”. Of course, I offended myself when I called me a “guinea pig” because of the whole derogatory use of the word “guinea” to describe Italian Americans. After I calmed down and accepted my apology, I proceeded.

Next, I had to find someone with similar hair to Bramble’s. I searched high and low until I stumbled on the perfect hair. It turned out the sample hair belonged to Leticia, an 8-year-old girl that lives down the street. Not the perfect choice for my little experiment, but after I promised to teach her how to drive, she agreed to help.

To make things as accurate as possible, I rented out a boxing ring at the downtown gym. The owner was a bit concerned when I said I wanted to spar with an 8-year-old girl, but after I explained it fully, he was REALLY concerned and ran to call the cops. I knew the knots I used to tie him up would not last long (I was a lousy boy scout), so we wouldn’t have much time for the experiment. We put on the gloves and I urged her to come right at me, leading with her head.

I don’t remember much after that. When I came to in the squad car, I had several cuts all over my face, and both eyes we nearly swollen shut. The police officers were laughing so hard they nearly wrecked three times on the way to the station. One said, “That was the worse beating I’ve seen since Livingstone Bramble pummeled Ray Mancini.”

Through a nearly shut jaw, I uttered “So it wasn’t the hair. I knew it.”

I was vindicated. I suffered the same fate as “Boom Boom” and not because of any spiky hair. Granted his beating was at the hands of a professional boxer while mine was from an eight year old who is currently borrowing my car to go buy some “Hello Kitty” jewelry.

Next week ESPN classic is going to show the infamous Tyson- Holyfield ear-biting bout. You know, I was always skeptical that a man could bite off another man’s ear….

1 comment:

Tridad said...

I could spot your kind a mile away...your little Italian flags sewn into your clothing, and smelling like pasta sauce! was thinking of your Canadian ancestry with the maple leaf designer wear and bacony scent