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Frank Bruno

Born November 16th 1961 in Hammersmith London England, Bruno was the youngest of six children.

Bruno’s first experience of boxing was in 1973 whilst at Oak Hall School in Sussex (an establishment for “problem’ children). As an amateur he won 20 out of 21 contests boxing for the Sir Philip Game Amateur Boxing Club. In 1980 at the age of 18 Bruno would win the ABA (amateur boxing association) heavyweight championship and switch to the paid ranks two years later, opening his account with a first round knockout of Lupe Guerra at the Royal Albert Hall (London England).

By 1985 Bruno had amassed a record of 25-1 (24), the one loss being a 10th round knockout to American James “Bonecrusher’ Smith. In October of 1985 Bruno captured the European Heavyweight title with a fourth round knockout of Anders Ekland and would go on a year later to fight for the WBA world title against American “Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon. Fighting in front of a home crowd at Wembley Stadium Bruno was clubbed to defeat in the eleventh round. I was 9 years old at the time and remember sitting down to watch a recording of the fight when one of my relatives let slip the result, it was the first time that I have ever been emotionally affected by the sport, I loved boxing, I just didn’t know it yet.

In 1989 Bruno would get a second shot at the world’s heavyweight titles (WBC, WBA, IBF), this time against the formidable “Iron’ Mike Tyson. No one gave Bruno a hope of winning against the ferocious Tyson and this proved to be the case as Bruno was dropped in the first and then stopped in five rounds.

In 1993 Bruno had his third tilt at the heavyweight title. This time at the Arms Park Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Bruno took on countryman Lennox Lewis for the WBC title and despite doing well early on Bruno was eventually stopped in the seventh round.

In 1995 in front of a home crowd at Wembley Stadium Bruno’s dreams were to come true as he defeated Americas Oliver McCall for the WBC title. On an emotionally stirring evening in London the announcement of Bruno’s victory sparked riotous scenes as the ring was flooded with supporters, the two most notable were Nigel Benn and Naseem Hamed celebrating as if it were a victory of their own.

Bruno’s reign as champion lasted just six months as he once again shared the ring with Mike Tyson. This time around there was genuine hope that Bruno could do the impossible, Tyson had just four rounds under his belt since being released from prison and Bruno was coming off of his best win. It was however wishful thinking as Bruno was stopped in 3 rounds.

That would see the end of Frank Bruno as a professional fighter after he was diagnosed with a detached retina, although in 2003 Bruno requested that his license be reinstated so he could fight once again against Sydney Olympic champion Audley Harrison, this idea never came to fruition.

Bruno was a typical stand up European style fighter, he was physically immense but not too graceful and he had good power but was robotic in the execution. As a boxer Bruno wasn’t the best, but by no means was he the worst and what he lacked in natural ability he made up for in unbreakable determination. Some people like to think of Bruno as a lovable loser, but a loser gives up after the first failure, Bruno came back from three failures to achieve what most had deemed unreachable, for that he must be applauded.

Life after boxing hasn’t been kind to Bruno, in 1997 cracks began to appear in his marriage to childhood sweetheart (and mother of three children) Laura which culminated in a messy divorce in 2001. Fears about Bruno’s public and private behavior began to grow and in 2003 he was sectioned under the mental health legislation.

Although now not under the care of the National Health Bruno no doubt continues to live in a world that he doesn’t really understand, he continues to train daily, healso has the very ring in which he won his world title erected in his garden, but the cold hard truth is that he isn’t a boxer anymore. I hope this is something that Bruno can eventually overcome, because like many before him and many more to follow, Bruno is finding the hardest battle of all is leaving boxing behind.

About Matt Cotterell

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