It has been great to see my old pal Frank Bruno this week looking and sounding so good after becoming a grandfather for the first time at the age of 56.
The former WBC heavyweight champion – who has suffered mental health problems since 2003 – told Hello Magazine: “It’s the best I’ve ever felt. I’ve been medication-free for three years.”
The truth is that Big Frank has always looked the part. An immaculate physical specimen.
— HELLO! (@hellomag) July 31, 2018
Bruno was the boxer with the perfect physique and the loveable personality. But there were times when I thought he was just too nice to be a professional boxer.
Interviewing Big Frank was always a dream. I love how he always called me John-boy and threw in random chuckles that guaranteed putting a smile on my face and entertaining the viewers.
#FrankBruno sparring on the microphone with John Gubba back in the 90sThis is a low res proxy previewing our archive footage with former world boxing champion Frank BrunoIt's good to hear that the boxing legend is on the mend after mental health issues
Posted by Visionsport TV on Tuesday, 31 July 2018
But watching him prepare for his first world title fight against ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson at his prime in 1989, I genuinely feared for his life.
Bruno had the physique of a Sporting God. He trained so hard in and out of the gym, his body was sculpted to perfection. But there was always the fear that he just was not bad enough in the ring and would struggle to defend himself against the ferocious beast that was Tyson.
For a man who looked so amazingly fit, it was something of a paradox. Big Frank gave off the aura of being a giant teddy bear, compared to the ruthless fighting machine regarded as ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet.”
As the Big Fight commentator put it, it was like matching a lion against a zebra.
History shows that Bruno survived four rounds before being knocked out in the fifth. He went on to lose his third world title fight against Lennox Lewis in 1993 – having previously lost to Tim Witherspoon three years before his meeting with Tyson.
Ultimately Bruno bravely achieved his dream at Wembley Stadium on 2nd September 1995 when he outboxed Oliver McCall to claim the WBC version of the world heavyweight title. It was a real-life version of Rocky to see Big Frank finally reach the top.
The following March he lost his crown to Tyson, shortly after the former champion had been released from jail after serving his sentence for rape. This time Big Frank was stopped by a technical knockout in the third in what proved to be the final fight of his career.
There was talk of him having a third and final fight with Tyson. But it never happened. Bruno was warned that he could lose vision in one eye if he continued to fight and that finally signalled his retirement.
Happily, Frank again appears to be thriving. Father of three girls himself, he says he is “besotted” with the latest addition to his family – baby Amaya, born in June to his daughter Rachel and her husband Bobby Bruno-Hardy.
He has come through some difficult times since he hung up his gloves. I hope this is the start of a long and happy chapter in his eventful life story. Good luck Frank. Will always love you my friend.