Friday, April 18, 2014
Despite retiring nearly 20 years ago from the sport which made him famous, Frank Bruno remains one of the country’s most popular figures.
Whether it was going toe-to-toe with some of the greatest boxing talents in the world, or appearing on stage in pantomime, he always had the crowd right behind him.
And this summer, the calls for “Bruno! Bruno!” might just be heard in Huntingdonshire when the former world heavyweight champion appears at The Burgess Hall, St Ives.
It’s fitting that St Ives is the town hosting the “evening with” event, for it was once home to one of Bruno’s most famous opponents, Joe Bugner.
The Hungarian-born fighter lived in Needingworth Road in the 1960s and early 70s, and his ex-wife Melody still lives near Huntingdon.
Bruno and Bugner, who is 12 years Bruno’s senior, went head-to-head at a packed White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur FC’s ground, in October 1987.
“There was a verbal onslaught from the Bugner camp,” Bruno told The Hunts Post. “He had a trainer, Ernie Fossey, saying Bugner could knock me out. There was always a bit of this and Bugner was playing it up.”
In the build up, Bugner’s second wife, Marlene, was the focus of much attention. “The press had a field day with his wife,” said Bruno. “They said maybe I should fight her because apparently she was a bit of a character.”
Their bout, which proved to be a warm-up for Bruno’s first meeting with Mike Tyson, ended in victory for the younger man.
“It was just like hitting a rock,” said Bruno. “He was slow, it was towards the end of his career, and I just slowly pummelled him. He just would not go down. I was clearly winning on points but he stood there and took it.
“Then, in the eighth round, I went in heavy and a towel was thrown in. I don’t know if that was by the trainer or Bugner’s wife.”
Bruno said he had always had a lot of respect for his more experienced opponent, who appeared in the 2009 series of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity.
Coincidentally, they are due to meet in Milton Keynes for an autograph signing session less than a month before his appearance at the Burgess Hall on June 7.
Bruno, 52, says of his public appearances there are two questions which he is sure to be asked: “How are you, Frank?” and “Can you say, ‘Know what I mean, Arry?’”
The former relates to his well-publicised mental health problems, which made headlines when he was taken away in a police car in 2003. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression.
“A lot of celebrities have mental health problems and say they’re not well – but don’t admit they have mental health problems,” he said.
“People need to be able to talk about it because it’s important to go and ask for help and advice at an early stage.”
Much of his time is now spent highlighting problems with the mental health system, such as keeping patients out of police cells and working towards ways of improving treatment.
Whether it’s boxing anecdotes, or his bruising encounter with mental illness, the audience at The Burgess Hall is promised an entertaining and thought-provoking night out.
The Hunts Post has teamed up with the Burgess Hall to offer a lucky reader a pair of tickets for An Evening With The Legendary Frank Bruno.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the following question:
What was the venue for Bruno’s fight with former St Ives resident Joe Bugner?
Answers on a postcard or sealed envelope to Bruno competition, The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon, PE29 3TB. Closing date is Wednesday, April 30.
An evening with the legendary Frank Bruno will be held at The Burgess Hall, St Ives from 6.45pm on Saturday, June 7. Tickets are £21.50 and available from One Leisure St Ives by calling 01480 388500 or via www.burgesshall.net.