Boxer Frank Bruno was the darling of British TV for much of the 1980s and 90s, due to his rapport with TV sports commentator, Harry Carpenter, and his oh-so-British habit of not winning. It was therefore ironic that after becoming heavyweight champ in 1995, Bruno lost a certain amount of cache with the British public, and slowly slid into a downward spiral of drug use, domestic violence, and even worse, pantomime.
1995 Frank Bruno vs Oliver McCall at Wembley
Born in 1961, Franklin Roy Bruno grew up in Wandsworth, South London. Not academic, young Frank played to his strengths, and was soon turning and hitting heads on the amateur boxing scene.
In 1981 Bruno went professional, and quickly put himself in line for a title shot with 19 consecutive knockout wins. However, in 1984 Bruno was floored in the final round of a fight with American, James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, despite being in front on all judges’ scorecards.
In 1986 he got a shot at the then WBA champ, Tim Witherspoon, but the American’s superior boxing brain, and Frank’s lack of killer instinct, saw the Londoner hit the canvas in the eleventh.
In 1989 Mike Tyson gave Bruno a shot at the title. Frank troubled Tyson in the first and second rounds, but the fight was stopped in the fifth as a bloodied Bruno was battered on the ropes.
In 1993 Frank had another title chance, but once again failed to make the grade as a young Lennox Lewis stopped him in the seventh. Yet again, Bruno had been leading up until the end.
In 1995 Frank Bruno fought American Oliver McCall at Wembley, and won the WBC title on points. However, Frank’s reign as champ was short-lived as his first defence of the title was an ill-advised rematch with Mike Tyson. Bruno lost in what was to be the last fight of his professional career.
Over a decade-and-a-half of boxing, Frank Bruno had earned himself a place in the hearts of the British public through his gallant attempts to win the world title, and his friendship with TV sports commentator, Harry Carpenter; which gave rise to the catchphrase “You know what I mean ‘arry?”
Post-boxing wasn't kind to Bruno as he became a regular face on low-brow TV shows, and then ended up performing in pantomimes. His life soon slipped into farce.
In 2001 his marriage to his childhood sweetheart Laura came to an end amid accusations of wife-beating. In 2003 Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983, and was later diagnosed with bi-polar disorder with the end of his boxing career, the break-up of his marriage, cocaine use, and the suicide of his long-time friend and trainer, George Francis, all cited.
Frank Bruno’s story is typical of British talent, and although we fell out of love with him, there will always be a place in our national consciousness for him. It is for this that Frank Bruno makes it to the You2UK.com hall of Great Britons.
Frank Bruno statistics
Name: Franklin Roy Bruno
Known as: Frank Bruno and True Brit
Height: 6ft 3in (1.91 m)
Born: 16 November 1961 in London
Frank Bruno's Boxing record:
Total fights: 45
Wins: 40 by KO 38
No contests: 0
Great Britons / Frank Bruno