Former World Boxing Council (WBC) Heavyweight Champion Franklin ‘Frank’ Bruno fought his last fight in 1996, but remains one of the most popular British boxers of all time. Calling him a ‘nearly man’ does him an injustice because he made the most of what was, at best, moderate talent. He finished his career with a 40-5 record, including 38 wins by knockout and, at the fourth time of asking, achieved his lifetime ambition of winning a world title.
Bruno fought his first professional fight, at the age of 18, in March, 1982 and, over the next two years, quickly amassed a 21-0 winning streak. That streak came to a dramatic end at the Empire Pool, Wembley when Bruno, who appeared to be well ahead, succumbed to a late flurry from James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith in the tenth and final round and failed to beat the count.
Bruno recovered to win his next seven fights, including a fourth-round knockout of Anders Eklund to become European Heavyweight Champion, before challenging Tim Witherspoon for the World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight title at Wembley Stadium in July, 1986. Bruno lost, by technical knockout, in the eleventh round. He fought for world titles twice more, losing by technical knockout to Mike Tyson in February, 1989 and Lennox Lewis in October, 1993, before finally wresting the WBC title from Oliver McCall, by unanimous decision, back at Wembley in September, 1995.
In March, 1996, Bruno attempted to defend his title against Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas but, in a one-sided contest, took a hiding that ended in defeat, by technical knockout, after just three rounds. With concerns about losing his sight, due to a detached retina, if he continued boxing, Bruno retired shortly afterwards.