Franklin Bruno was born in Hammersmith in 1961, the youngest child of Lynette and Robert Bruno, who had settled in London after arriving in England from the Caribbean. Frank was always called 'Franklin' by his father and mother, a district nurse and lay preacher from Jamaica.
Frank, an extremely boisterous child, began boxing when he was 9 years old and, as an amateur, he won all but one of his 21 fights, and became the youngest British amateur champion when he was 18.
In 1980, Bruno turned professional under the guidance of manager Terry Lawless, and promoter Mickey Duff, but it wasn't until 1982 that Bruno had his first professional fight. His opponent was Lupe Guerra who was knocked out by Bruno in Round 1. That year, Bruno won another 9 contests, mostly in the first or second round. In 1983, he had another ten fights, again winning them all. After beating Juan Figura in March 1984, Bruno had won all 21 of his professional fights. These easy victories made him feel "more like a bouncer throwing guys out of a night club."
Frank Bruno's 'larger than life' personality led him to follow a career in 'show business', appearing in several Christmas pantomimes and HP sauce adverts on television. His 'double act' with boxing commentator Harry Carpenter became well known, and "Know what I mean, Harry?" became Frank's lasting catchphrase.
After seven years away from boxing, Bruno began to lose direction. His 11 year marriage to Laura ended in divorce, and later, his idea of standing as a Conservative candidate with the motto "Don't be a plank, vote for Frank" turned out to be a publicity stunt that backfired.
Frank Bruno aged 18
I first met Frank Bruno at the NEC in 2004 when he signed a photograph for me. I met him there again in November 2005 and this time he signed my copy of his autobiography Fighting Back.
He looked me up and down when I stood in front of him dressed in my tuxedo, and he flicked my bow tie and said with a smile on his face, "I just wanted to see if it twizzled round!"
Frank Bruno signing my book
In his book, he sums himself up in the introduction - "You probably know me as a fighter, the happy guy on the telly with the one-liners, the big guy in panto. Maybe you were there on the night when I won the
In 2003, Bruno was admitted to Goodmayes mental hospital, against his will, for 28 days suffering from a condition later confirmed as 'bipolar disorder'. This is described in detail in Bruno's very readable autobiography Frank: Fighting Back, published in 2005. The book gives an account of all his fights and his experiences with drugs.
Bruno's 'finest hour' came in 1995 when he beat American Oliver McCall at Wembley to become the WBC World Heavyweight champion. Six months later, Bruno had to defend his title against Mike Tyson, but lost after three rounds. Bruno immediately retired from boxing under doctor's orders.
Throughout his career, Bruno found few problems with most of his opponents, but acquired the reputation of a 'loser' when it came to World Title challenges. After being knocked out by James 'Bonecrusher' Smith in 1984, his only other losses were to Tim Witherspoon in 1986, Mike Tyson in 1989 & 1996 and Lennox Lewis in 1993.
Frank Bruno in action against Mike Tyson
Frank Bruno - World Heavyweight Champion
"Know what I mean, Harry?"
Frank Bruno in the pantomime
Frank Bruno's knockout punch in his first
professional fight against Lupe Guerra
Frank signed my copy of his
'Broo-no!, at one of my fights. I was public property, a celebrity they say. And there wasn't much people didn't know about my life, my wife and kids, the big house in the country, the MBE and all the other trappings. Strangers said hello in the street. They still do........."
world title. Maybe you shouted
I met Frank again at Milton Keynes in May 2008. He signed a photograph for me
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