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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Profile: Frank Bruno
Frank Bruno factfile
1961: Born London, Nov 16, youngest of six children.
1980: Wins ABA heavyweight championship aged 18
1982: Wins first professional fight, beating Lupe Guerra
1993: Suffers third world title defeat (WBC) by Lennox Lewis
1995: Wins WBC world title from Oliver McCall
1996: Retires on medical advice after loss to Mike Tyson

Frank Bruno is one of the rare breed of sportspeople who manage to rise above the boundaries of their discipline to win a place in the nation's affection.

Loved by grannies and children as well as boxing fans, Bruno looked destined to be remembered as a serial loser of world title challenges after being beaten by Tim Witherspoon in 1986, Mike Tyson in 1989 and Lennox Lewis in 1993.

But no-one minded as the affable fighter kept on trying.

And his knock-about repartee with BBC boxing commentator Harry Carpenter, usually signing off with his trademark "Ya know what I mean," and a belly laugh, became legendary.

But Bruno did confirm his place as a British boxing great in 1995 when he beat Oliver McCall at Wembley to become the WBC heavyweight champion.

Bruno savours that victory as his greatest moment - and even bought the ring in which it was achieved.

But his stay at the top was short-lived and he was beaten by Mike Tyson the following year (Tyson has since said Bruno had the hardest punch of anyone he ever fought).

Bruno never fought again after doctors advised him he could lose his sight.

Far from being embarrassed by his larger than life, gentle giant demeanour, Bruno set about hamming it up into his new livelihood.

A regular chat show guest, after-dinner speaker and pantomime star, (Bruno's This is Your Life tribute was watched by 16m viewers) - he forged a new career in entertainment.

Bruno gets a hero's reception after become world heavyweight champion in 1995
Bruno gets a hero's reception after become champion in 1995
However, it appeared after seven years outside the ropes, as some of the work dried up, Bruno grew tired of playing the clown.

Signs of his frustration and attempts to get back in the public spotlight became more obvious.

First came the news in 2001 Bruno wanted to run for election to parliament as a Conservative MP.

"Don't be a plank, vote for Frank," was to be his slogan.

The story fizzled into nothing and it was put down as another cheeky joke from Frank.

At the time Bruno was also engaged in a messy divorce from his wife Laura, his childhood sweetheart and mother to his three children, seen by many as a solid foundation in his life.

The pair had hit problems in 1997, the year after Bruno retired, as a series of arguments led to Laura winning a court order banning him from assaulting her.

In 2002, Bruno was rocked by the news that his former trainer George Francis had been found hanged in an apparent suicide.

Then in 2003, Bruno suddenly announced he wanted to get back into the ring, aged 41, to have a crack at Olympic champion Audley Harrison.

The worst point in my career was retiring and hanging up my gloves - I still train every day, and I think it is something I will do for the rest of my life
Frank Bruno in 2002
No-one doubted that as Britain's best-loved, laughing former champion, Bruno would be a crowd-puller.

He applied for the reinstatement of his British Boxing Board of Control license, despite the detached retina that ended his career, and observers wondered if he really could emulate George Foreman's famous comeback, at the age of 45.

But doubts grew as his behaviour and public statements became increasingly bizarre.

He revealed he sometimes slept in the boxing ring in his garden.

And in an interview with BBC Five Live, Bruno talked about the "mugs and creeps" who were trying to portray him in the same light as Tyson.

Promoter Frank Warren says the signs were there for several months.

Mike Tyson v Frank Bruno 1996
Defeat to Tyson was Bruno's last professional fight
"He started to surround himself with people he could have done without, they were "yes men" who were not telling him he had a problem and he had to face up to it.

"It was something he needed to address so now hopefully he can get the help he needs."

It seemed Bruno could not stand to be outside the sport to which he had aspired to dominate from an early age.

Growing up with five brothers and sisters in a terraced London house, Bruno learnt to box while 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 his final season he represented Young England and at age 18 became the youngest ever ABA heavyweight champion.

As a professional he won 40 out of 45 contests - and made history when he defeated McCall to become the first British heavyweight in 98 years to win the title in the ring.

It was his finest moment - and one he could never recapture.

"Sleep with your gloves on, get up early, train hard, and you can't go wrong," was Bruno's motto.

Sadly, it appears to have failed him.

Bruno applies to box again
17 Jun 03  |  Boxing
Harrison keen for Bruno bout
15 Apr 03  |  Boxing
Bruno ready for Harrison
14 Apr 03  |  Boxing

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