As Ray Mancini studied his ruined face in a mirror last Friday night, the crushing awareness that he was no longer the WBA lightweight champion settled fully upon him. Above his right eye, swollen nearly closed, there was a rip in the brow. The puffiness around the other eye was less pronounced, but there was a dark red slash in that brow as well. His nose appeared to have doubled in size, although it was later ascertained that it wasn't broken, as had been feared. Sighing, Mancini shook his damaged head. "God," he said, almost to himself, "I sure was rotten out there tonight."
Mancini trudged from the tiny bathroom into the main part of his dressing room in the bowels of Buffalo's War Memorial Auditorium, where he was met by Hector (Macho) Camacho, who hugged him. "Hey, don't worry about it," said Camacho. "We all have nights like that."
Camacho is the undefeated WBC junior lightweight champion. Either Camacho or Aaron Pryor, the former junior welterweight champion who's coming out of retirement with a June 23 fight against Nick Furlano, would have been Mancini's next opponent. For millions. All Mancini had to do was get past Livingstone Bramble, the world's only known Rastafarian fighter and a household name in the Virgin Islands and parts of New Jersey.
"Aw, I'm really sorry," Mancini told Camacho. "I blew it."
Perhaps. But he had a ton of help from Bramble, a switch hitter who chopped him up and then hammered him unmercifully until referee Marty Denkin stopped the fight 53 seconds into the 14th round.
Mancini walked to a rubbing table and lay down. He placed his hands behind his head. "I really did blow it," he said. "My problem was I tried to be too much of a man. I didn't listen to my corner."
His manager, Dave Wolf, his eyes reddened from crying, said, "That's right, you didn't listen. We wanted you to box, and all you wanted to do was punch."
Murphy Griffith, Mancini's trainer, came to the table, leaned over and said softly, "You'll be back."
Mancini tried to smile at him. It was hard. The inside of his mouth was torn by Bramble's punches; he had spent much of the fight gagging on his own blood.
"Yeah," the fighter said. "But, hey, wasn't that Bramble something? I didn't know he could do so many things so well. He's the most underrated fighter in the world. He was confusing me a lot. He slugged with me. He boxed with me. Who in the lightweight division is going to beat him?"