When Legends Collide: Unearthing the Intense Showdown of Mike Tyson vs Frank Bruno, a Throwback to 30 Years Ago


While the heavyweight division is today ruled by Anthony Joshua, there was once another likeable, well-built Brit who carried the hopes of a nation on his broad shoulders.

Frank Bruno had the body, the charisma, the heart and the booming laugh which made him adored by the public.

His biggest challenge came 30 years ago today when he took on the menacing Mike Tyson in Las Vegas.


We relive how that memorable night unfolded in our classic fight series.

“Bruno’s face is already marked up but he’s fighting back and he’s hurt Tyson with a good left. He knows he can hurt him now. Get in there Frank!”

These were the words famously yelled by legendary commentator Harry Carpenter in a moment of bias, as he along with the rest of the nation got behind Bruno in his quest to dethrone the fearsome American.

Up until that point, no fighter had so much as laid a glove on Tyson, let alone put a chink in his armour, but a left hook from Bruno, who had already touched the canvas in the opening round, showed everyone, albeit momentarily, the champion was human.

However, Tyson quickly regained his composure, the legs that looked as if they may betray him, were sturdy once more.

Those brief seconds of success Bruno enjoyed were to be his last.

“When I actually caught Mike Tyson and he started rocking [in the first round] I thought for a minute that possibly we had him,” Bruno said.

“But he came back much stronger and I certainly knew about it when he started hitting me. The hurt – not only physically, but psychologically – of losing that fight is difficult to make people understand.”

A 16-month hiatus from the ring would hardly have been ideal preparation, let alone when your opponent is the world’s most dominant fighter.

Bruno’s last bout was against Joe Bugner, the Hungarian-born Australian-British heavyweight who had fought the likes of Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier and Henry Cooper, and he stopped his ageing opponent in eight.

Tyson had also been absent from the squared circle – eight months he spent dealing with injuries and personal issues. His wife, Robin Givens, filed for divorce and then a £125million defamation suit against him. A broken hand after a street fight with former foe Mitch Green meant his fight with Bruno would have to wait.

The pair were meant to meet at Wembley Stadium in October 1988, before the fight was rescheduled to take place at the Las Vegas Hilton, Nevada the following February.


When the long-awaited meeting finally came around, few gave the affable Brit a chance.

Standing 6ft 3in, with a torso chiselled from granite, his physical presence was unmatched. But despite the aesthetic advantages, the paradox was in the personality.

Adored by the British public for his playful humour, commercials and endearing chuckle, some considered him ‘too nice’ and lacking the ruthless edge to dominate in boxing’s marquee division.


On the other hand, his opponent spread terror among the other heavyweights. ‘Iron’ Mike had become the youngest champion of all time, when he dispatched Trevor Berbick in the second round at just 20 years and four months in 1986.

Moulded by Cus D’Amato and guided by Kevin Rooney, the street-fighter from Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, was programmed into a savage. With his 20 inch neck, stocky build and fearsome combinations, many Tyson victims were simply intimidated long before the first bell had even rung.

Bruno entered the ring, complete with red robe and the backing of several hundred travelling supporters, hoping to see an upset. Stepping through the second rope he looked tense, understandably so.

Next through the curtain was Tyson. The WBC, WBA, IBF and lineal belt holder glistened with sweat, the trademark towel which was worn over his head, was promptly removed, all that remained were the black trunks and black ankle high boots; throwback style. This only added to the menace.

The first round was electric, the two exchanged blows and Bruno was down within 30 seconds. Referee Richard Steele quickly warned the challenger about his frequent rabbit punches (blows to the back of the head).

Bruno then stunned Tyson with a left hook, and the crowd erupted.

“It was harder than the punch (a right uppercut) that (Tony) Tucker got me with,” Tyson said, referring to a shot Tucker landed in their unification clash two years prior.

The ring rust was evident in the champion; he would take another three rounds to find his rhythm, Bruno was feeling the pace, he clinched often and absorbed more.

Tyson landed several left hooks hoping to end proceedings, but Bruno was showing considerable toughness.

In the fifth, the fight continued in much of the same pattern, Bruno was now in survival mode, but a sickening left to the body sent him back to the ropes with 20 seconds remaining.

Tyson’s predatory instincts kicked in like a shark smelling blood. Another crunching hook to the body was followed by a full-blooded uppercut that nearly separated Bruno from his senses. Thankfully, Steele had seen enough and rescued Bruno from further punishment.

Tyson embraced yet another beaten adversary, Bruno had done himself proud despite again missing out on a world title.

The two men would rematch seven years later, the roles reversed this time, with Bruno the WBC champion. Tyson would relieve him of the belt in three rounds.

But, 30 years ago to the day, fans will never forget the moment Bruno almost stunned Tyson.


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