Buffalo Soldiered: Bumphus, Mancini, A big night for upsets
By Lyle Fitzsimmons from Boxing Scene
It was our first fight… and the end of two eras.
When old pal Phil MacDonald and I hopped in my dad’s Chevy Caprice for a trip from hometown Niagara Falls to the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo 26 years ago tonight, the consensus around town leaned more toward prolonged reigns than title-shifting storms.
The city’s first major boxing show in decades was intended as a dual showcase for high-profile incumbents and TV staples Johnny Bumphus and Ray Mancini – “Bump City” and “Boom Boom” – against less-accomplished suitors Gene Hatcher and Livingstone Bramble.
Hatcher and Bramble were just recognizable enough for cameos on ESPN and entertaining bluster at mid-week press conferences, but neither had measured up in the ring to a bejeweled pair that entered with 51 wins and four title defenses in 52 fights.
Hatcher’s biggest pre-Bumphus moments had arguably been a pair of losses – to eventual lightweight title challenger Tyrone Crawley in Atlantic City and longtime 130-pound champion Alfredo Escalera at Madison Square Garden – while Bramble, though he’d lost just once in 22 fights, had beaten little better than the Kenny Bogners and Rafael Williamses of the world.
The purses reflected the pre-fight contrasts in significance, with champions Mancini and Bumphus making $1 million and $175,000, respectively, while sacrificial challengers Bramble and Hatcher received the comparable pittances of $125,000 and $75,000.
But within a couple hours, the castes dramatically changed… financial and otherwise.
Far ahead on scorecards through 10 rounds, Bumphus abruptly ran short of gas in round 11 and was on the losing end of a controversial stoppage by referee Johnny LoBianco at 2:35.
A post-fight melee did nothing to change the result and the Lou Duva-groomed southpaw never again held a title – in fact lasting less than four minutes in a challenge of welterweight Lloyd Honeyghan in his final pro fight less than three years later.
Hatcher fared little better, winning and losing the WBA 140-pound title in two bouts with Argentine veteran Ubaldo Sacco within 13 months of coronation, and also falling to Honeyghan at 147 pounds – in just 45 seconds – six months after Bumphus’s failure in 1987.
All tolled, he dropped five of 15 fights before retiring in 1995.
As it turned out, the main event never really came close to chalk.
An accomplished counter-puncher, Bramble continually exploited Mancini’s porous defense and sliced up the Ohioan’s face before registering the TKO and snatching the WBA lightweight crown little more than 90 seconds into round 14.
He performed a similar bloodletting en route to scorecard supremacy in a rematch nine months later in Reno, but managed just one more defense – against Crawley – before a second-round KO by Edwin Rosario violently ended his reign in 1986.
A lapse into prolonged mediocrity followed his title change; with Bramble playing out a 16-25-2 string over 43 fights until calling it quits in 1997.
Mancini never won again, dropping a vacant WBO title try to Hector Camacho via split decision in 1989 and retiring for good after a seventh-round loss to Greg Haugen in 1992.
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Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning sports journalist, a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and would have been better off rooting for mid-card heroes Charlie Brown, Jim Jones and Ken Willis that night in Buffalo.