St. Kitts is a small, green island shaped like a leg of lamb and dominated by a dead volcano named Mount Misery. Bramble's father patched together a thin living there, laboring on a sugarcane plantation, while his mother raised nine children, of whom Livingstone is the seventh.
At six, Livingstone's cousin, Battlin' Douglas, an amateur fighter, gave him a pair of boxing gloves. Livingstone and his older brother Frederick each wore a glove on one hand and wrapped a sheet around the other. "I didn't always win," Livingstone says, "but I didn't ever quit."
The Brambles moved to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands in 1969. That same year, in his amateur debut, a 70-pound Livingstone beat Kid Ringo. A couple of years later he turned Rasta on the advice of Kid Lamumba, a local welterweight. Bramble kept fighting, once giving away 19 pounds to an opponent known as the Fighting Duck. By 1979 he'd run out of opponents in the Caribbean. He came stateside to prepare for the Moscow Olympics, but the Virgins joined in the U.S.-led boycott.
Bramble stayed, turned pro and settled in New Jersey. "When I discovered him he was like a lost puppy," says Duva. "But to be honest, I never envisioned him to be a world champion. Everything about him was too erratic."
Sucking on a ginseng root, Bramble saunters around the three-story house he rents in Montclair. The clink of gold necklaces announces his presence like a bell on a cat. He shares the house with his sister Sandra, his son, Alvja, whose name means Fight For Jah, and Brown. Alvja is a self-possessed 2-year-old who seems to regard grown-ups as big but slightly stupid playmates. "My daddy took Boom Boom's belt," Alvja says, "and Boom Boom's pants dropped off."
The living room is outfitted with a St. Kitts flag, a Marley poster, a print of Nastassja Kinski clad only in a boa constrictor, an animal skull—"The last dog that bit me," says Livingstone—and the pelt of an alley cat. Bramble found a dead cat on a street and skinned it: "I didn't want to waste it."
The house also contains a number of live beasties. Bramble has a boa, a python, a ferret and 13 pit bull terriers. The python goes by the name of Rebel, the ferret is Spider, and the four older dogs are Snake, Killer, Tiger and Mrs. Easy, whose recent litter Bramble helped deliver. Bramble had to give away Dog, his other boa, because it was getting too rambunctious. Rebel used to eat Dog's rats. Bramble doesn't consider Rebel a pet, because "you can't pet him." The python reminds him of Mancini. "He'll find you and strike at you all day," Bramble says.
Bramble, whose nickname is Pit Bull, fights more along the lines of Snake. Says Brown, "Both go in for the kill. If you better than he, he won't quit till he dead." Bramble brought Snake down to St. Croix last year. They strolled along the beach with Brown and Spotty, a poodle that belonged to Brown's son. Spotty snapped at Snake. Snake locked his teeth into Spotty's spine. Bramble tried to break them up by tossing them into the waves. Only Snake swam ashore. The late Spotty drifted out to sea. Otherwise, his pelt might now be hanging on Bramble's wall. Snake looks a bit like Petie would have if Petie, the pooch owned by the Little Rascals of movie fame, had run into a Roto-Rooter.
Bramble credits Snake with making him champ. "Besides my son," he says, "Snake's the best buddy I got. He's thoughtful and kind and honest and true. I see the willpower he has. If he wants something, he just goes out and gets it. He makes me strong by being the way he is."
But Bramble doesn't want Snake to rest on his laurels. He's thinking about installing a treadmill on which the dog will perpetually run after Spider the ferret. "I don't want Snake to get lazy while I'm in training camp." he says.