THE cat is out of the bag and, mind you, it stinks a little.
Reigning World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Timothy Bradley Jr. recently disclosed a pre-fight ritual that had quite a number of boxing fans, including opponent Manny Pacquiao, covering their noses. Bradley admitted to not taking a bath at least a week before the fight, apparently to keep his adrenaline going. Bradley is the second opponent of Pacquiao to admit to a pre-fight ritual. It will be recalled that Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez once admitted to drinking his own urine, a pre-fight habit he has since discarded.
While many were taken by surprise by Bradley’s admission, it is common knowledge that athletes observe pre-game rituals just to get themselves in a winning groove. During his heyday, basketball superstar Michael Jordan always wore his North Carolina college shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal is very obsessive about the way his drinks are prepared and makes it a point that his water bottles are lined up with the labels facing the baseline he is playing from.
Boxers are no exceptions when it comes to observing pre-game rituals. Pancho Villa, the first Filipino world boxing champion, always wore trunks that were colored voodoo green. Small Montana, who became the Philippines’ second world champion in 1935 when he beat Midget Wolgast for the flyweight crown, idolized Villa so much that he always kept a small photo of the latter inside his socks.
Villa was not THE only one who was particular with the color of his boxing trunks. According to the August 1913 edition of the Milwaukee Journal, American John L. Sullivan, who became boxing’s first gloved heavyweight champion in 1885, always wore green-colored trunks. Before he stepped into the ring, Sullivan also made it a point to surreptitiously insert in his belt a talisman which his mother gave him when he turned pro.
For Bob Fitzsimmons, boxing’s first three-division champion, having a lucky dream before a big fight was the key to victory. Fitzsimmons, who won titles in the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, claimed that he never lost a fight he dreamt he won before it took place.
For former three-division world champion Jorge Arce of Mexico, the key to winning fights boils down to a lollipop. Arce always enters the ring munching on a lollipop which he claims calms his nerves. To enhance his tough-guy image, Arce also loves to walk down the aisle with a cowboy hat.
Reigning World Boxing Council welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. has a litany of pre-fight rituals, if the fighter’s former partner Josie Harris is to be believed. According to Harris, Mayweather is very particular with the seating arrangement of his entourage at ringside. Mayweather’s mistresses must not be seated that close to his main squeeze. After the weigh-in, Mayweather also makes a point to eat at least six steaks, pasta, potatoes, chicken and vegetables.
Different strokes for different boxing folks. Bradley’s latest disclosure about his pre-fight routine may not come as a breath of fresh air, but it is definitely not the weirdest. The strangest pre-fight ritual belongs to former middleweight fighter Wilbert “Vampire” Johnson of Ohio. Johnson, who fought in the 1980s, was carried to the ring in a coffin, and rose out wearing a black cape and flashing his 'Vampire Smile’ at the fans.