A few minutes later Mancini was on his way to Millard Fillmore Hospital. The cuts were closed with 14 stitches, and he spent the night in the hospital as a precaution. Just before he fell asleep, Mancini asked Wolf, "Have you made the rematch yet?"
About the same time, Bramble was preoccupied with a mirror of his own, near the elevator doors on the eighth floor of the Hilton Hotel. For several moments he studied his stolid features, as though trying to determine if his championship had suddenly changed him. In the mirror he could see a stranger coming down the hallway toward the elevators. With a small smile and an air of childlike innocence, Bramble turned and said, "Hi. I'm a world champion."
"Congratulations," the stranger said.
"Thank you," Bramble said.
This new champion is something of a mystery. The tendency has been to write him off as, well, crazy, a label Bramble seems to revel in. "You media guys all love crazy people," he said. "And I am one of them."
Growing up in near poverty in the Virgin Islands, Bramble, who's now 23, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. At his apartment in Passaic, N.J., where he has lived since coming to the U.S. in 1979, he breeds bullterriers. At the moment he has five, one of which he named Snake. Then there is a boa constrictor named Dog, a python named Rebel and an iguana named Tegu. After finding a dead cat in the road, he skinned it and hung it on the back of a door. "No sense in wasting a skin," he reasoned. He is usually asked to change apartments about every three months.
"They call me crazy," Bramble says. "No problem. I don't care. I know I am a little strange at times."
Mancini thought Bramble was a little strange when he found out he was dedicating the fight to the Ethiopians killed during the Italian occupation in 1936.
"They got a little carried away with that," said Bramble. "Heck, my manager, Lou Duva, is Italian." He said the story started when someone found out he trained to the music of Buffalo Soldier, a song from a Bob Marley album dedicated to the Ethiopians.
Then how about the voodoo doctor he imported from the Virgin Islands to put a spell on Mancini?