Frank Bruno captured the British public imagination, to follow on from another peoples champion in Henry Cooper, Bruno went on to became an house-hold name and a national treasure in his own right.

Bruno was by no means one of the best fighters ever to come from these isles, but will be remembered as possibly the most well known, recognisable and well liked boxer we have produced.

We take a look here at Franks career, some of his fights, and highlights of the gentle giant who was as brave as they come, and took his knocks and come back, in the ring and out of it.

Born on the 16th November 1961, Franklyn Roy Bruno, was the youngest of six children. In 1970 when he was just 9, his mother, Lynette, took a young Franklyn to a local boxing gym, the Wandsworth Boys’ Club, to try and channel some of the young lads energy.

Although this helped somewhat, he was still hard to control and had numerous run ins, and in 1973 he was sent to Oak Hall, a reform school in Sussex, having been expelled from his previous school for hitting a teacher.

This was to be the turning point in the big mans life, bullied on his first day, Frank dealt with his problems, becoming the head boy at Oak Hall and leaving a changed person and a destiny in front of him that was to see him become the heavyweight champion of the world.

Frank had a successful amateur career and in May 1980 became the ABA heavyweight champion at just eighteen, the youngest ever, big things were being said about this teenage lumbering muscle bound heavyweight from Wandsworth. 

After the ABA finals Frank signed with Terry Lawless, the well respected and time served manager and trainer, turning professional later that year.

In February 1981, Frank got some shock news at his boxing medial, that his eyes were not up to standard for a professional boxer, and so an eye operation was arranged by Franks team and he travelled to see a eye specialist in Bogotá, Colombia, to repair the damaged retina.

With Franks eye mended his boxing life as a pro was well under way his first professional fight, was against Lupe Guerra at the Royal Albert Hall, and after four years as a professional he had racked up twenty-one consecutive wins, all by knockout.

Here is one of Franks early fights videos against Winston Allen 1st March 1983

In March 1984, and after a succession of lesser opponents, the wheels came off the Bruno band waggon, when he was matched with world ranked and dangerous American James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, in a fight that if he could win, would give Frank a chance of a world title shot.

Smith KO’s Bruno in the last round

Frank boxed well that night and leading on all three judges scorecards, was caught flush on the chin by Smith, with Frank reeling on the ropes, the referee jumped in to save him and put an end to the nations hopes and Franks dreams of being a heavyweight champion.

Bruno was devastated, but re-grouped and eventually got himself back into title contention with wins over the likes of former WBA champion Gerrie Coetzee (by knockout in round one – video below)

Frank never fought for the British title, but in October 1985 he won the European heavyweight title, knocking out Anders Eklund at Wembley. 

Frank Bruno vs Gerrie Coetzee boxing fight video

July 1986, back at Wembly, he challenged Tim Witherspoon for the WBA World Heavyweight championship. After once again leading on the cards for most of the fight, he ran out of steam and was defeated by knockout again the last round! eleven.

Watch the fight! Frank Bruno vs Tim Witherspoon. Click Here

In 1987 Bruno came back to the ring and with the public support as strong as ever for him, he fought four times that year all victories against, Reggie Gross, Chuck Gardner, James Tillis and then an all British affair with Joe Bugner.

Frank was now in line for a second shot at winning the heavyweight title, and in 1988 was lined up to fight the new undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion of all time and the man who had cleaned up a sorry heavyweight division at the time, destroying anyone who stepped in the ring with him, in most cases before the bell had sounded, with his intimidation tactics!

The fight was set for Wembley stadium, London, Frank was to have home advantage and Britain was going to see in the flesh, the self proclaimed, baddest man on the planet.

But due to Tyson’s personal life and problems outside the ring, the fight was called off, and he was to have to wait for over a year to eventually get his chance against Tyson.

When the fight was finally re schedule for the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, the build up began and the nation was gripped with Bruno mania. 

1989 Preview of Mike Tyson vs Frank Bruno1

In February 1989, that chance came and Bruno challenged Mike Tyson for the unified world Heavyweight title. After being shaken in the opening minute, Bruno finished the first round by rocking Tyson with a left hook. However, Tyson recovered and beat Bruno when the referee stopped the contest in round five with Frank taking heavy punishment on the ropes.

The Fight. Mike Tyson vs Frank Bruno 1

Again finding himself on another comeback chapter of his career, Bruno’s only focus was again on getting a third shot at the world title, he was matched with Carl Williams, Pierre Coetzer, Jose Ribalta and John Emmen, which resulted in an all British heavyweight world title fight, the first time two British born boxers to do so.

Frank Bruno vs Jose Ribalta boxing fight video

In 1993 against young Lennox Lewis, who was making the second defence of the belt (his first of three championship reigns). At the Cardiff Arms Park, in Wales Lewis beat Bruno on a stoppage in round seven, Bruno again failing to take his title chance after leading the contest on points up until what proved the final round, history had repeated itself again for an unlucky Bruno who had ran out of steam, getting caught again late on.

Frank Bruno vs Lennox Lewis boxing fight video

On 24 September 1994, Oliver McCall beat Lewis with a second round knockout victory at Wembley Arena, and, after outpointing Larry Holmes, he came to England to defend the WBC title against Bruno, and on 2 September 1995, after three failed attempts, Bruno finally became world champion by outpointing McCall over twelve rounds.

Highlights of the Frank Bruno vs Oliver McCall fight which took place on the 2nd of September of 1995 in Wembley Stadium. Frank Bruno 4th time lucky, his fourth attempt at the Heavyweight Title of the World and he finally succeeded.

Frank was world heavyweight champion and in his first defense of the title was to lock horns with an old foe – the contract he signed in order to get McCall title shot, meant he had to face Mike Tyson in his first defence.

I always had the impression Frank didn’t want that fight and with personal problems mounting up on him at the time and the break up of his marriage to Laura, he looked on the night of the fight and his walk to the ring, that he just didn’t want to be there, but with a few million pounds on the table and his biggest payday, Frank went through the motions, being stopped by Tyson in the 3rd round, in what was to be Franks last fight.

Frank Bruno vs Mike Tyson boxing fight video, Frank defends his world title against Tyson 

In the years since his retirement Frank has had many ups and downs, which in a way mirrored his career as a pugilist and his years fighting adversity and defeats, to finally lay his hands on the ultimate prize the heavyweight championship of the world.

Bringing true Bruno’s childhood dream and his brother Dennis’ prophesy written as a kid on  the wall in there Wandsworth home, that ‘Franklyn Roy Bruno would be the heavyweight champion of the world one day’!

Thanks for the memories Frank!

By Chris Maylett British Boxers

Below are a selection of Frank Bruno fight videos, mentioned in the article, also a collection of personal appearances from Frank on various TV shows, showing how much Frank was deemed a celebrity showcase, as well as a British boxing legend and man of the people.

Frank Bruno on the Freddie Star Show

Frank Bruno Interview (The Word 1995) 
click on the picture to view the video
Frank Bruno on the Weakest Link Boxing Special with Ann Robinson
Frank Bruno’s Official Website
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