It came out of Africa late in the summer of 1960 and smashed across the Caribbean with 150-mph winds. Just before it moved up to batter Florida and the East Coast of the U.S. in a billion-dollar rampage. Hurricane Donna hit the West Indies island of St. Kitts at the moment a future WBA lightweight champ was born squawking and squalling.
When the winds abated, neighbors came around to see Henry and Carmen Bramble's 11-pound, 8-ounce baby boy. "Everyone say, 'Oh my! The hurricane do so much damage, call him Donna,' " recalls Carmen. And for the first 18 years of young Bramble's life, the nickname stuck.
"My name's Donna," he'd tell a girl.
"That's funny," she'd say. "Mine is, too."
Nobody calls him Donna anymore. He likes Livingstone, which is his real name, the one his aunt Winifred gave him, and a boxer who punches as hard as Bramble does pretty much gets the name he wants. "It was after Dr. Livingstone," he says. "You know, the fellow who discovered medicine in Africa."
Bramble won the right to be called champion last June when he dethroned Boom Boom Mancini on a 14th-round technical knockout. He's scheduled to defend his title against Mancini on Feb. 16 in Reno.
An unorthodox boxer, to say the least. Bramble leads with the wrong foot and switches from right to left in a way that leaves him wide open. "I tell my young fighters, if they want to do everything right, don't watch Bramble," says his manager, Lou Duva. "He does everything wrong, but it turns out to be right. His opponents don't know what's coming next, and that pause trying to figure him out becomes their downfall."
Mancini's manager, Dave Wolf, sees it another way. "Livingstone's greatest strength is his belief in himself," Wolf says. "And that in itself is a great power." Duva calls it Bramble's "cannibal instinct."
Bramble is, in fact, a spindle-shanked Rastafarian who eschews meat, walks with a swaggering confidence and speaks a patois of heavily Africanized English, but his accent is more New Jersey than Caribbean. For the last six years he has lived in the Garden State.
He favors urban guerrilla garb like camouflage pants and wears his hair in corn rows, which Duva calls cornfields. All this is usually topped by a kind of crazy-quilt tarn Bramble designed in red, green, yellow and black—in honor of the flags of St. Kitts, Ethiopia. Jamaica and the Rastafarian culture.