Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: Stadium night fights: Bruno v Witherspoon

With Saturday's huge stadium fight between Carl Froch and George Groves fast approaching, I've been nostalgically re-watching some of my favourite 'stadium fights'. Over the next few days I'll be posting links to these, as well as a selection of brief thoughts and memories of the nights in question.

Bruno-Witherspoon: Wembley stadium, 19 July 1986:
I was only nine at the time, but I vividly remember the frenzied build-up to this fight. Like many Brits I was enamoured with Frank Bruno and his beguiling mixture of charm, humour and frightening punching power. I wasn't allowed to stay up and watch the fight, which was in the wee hours (for the benefits of US TV if I recall correctly), but I did get to discuss it at the dinner table with my parents and some of their friends who were visiting. I remember a couple of them were quite horrified that I was taking an interest in a 'blood sport' such as boxing. That was 1980s middle class Britain for you.

When I woke up the next day I didn't have the patience to wait for the replay to be televised, and instead asked my dad what the result had been. When he told me Tim had won in the 11th I was crestfallen. I watched the fight anyway, praying he'd somehow got it wrong.

He hadn't of course.

What the fight proved, once again and not for the last time, was that, for all his power, Bruno was always going to be vulnerable against a puncher who was able to take him past the midway point of a fight. Nevertheless, Bruno would eventually achieve his title dream, of course, in September 1995 against Oliver McCall - a wonderful moment of vindication for a wonderful man.

The video of the Witherspoon-Bruno contest below also features some cracking pre-fight footage, including a wonderful film by the peerless and much-missed Harry Carpenter (which starts around 9:26) looking at Bruno's career up to that point, as well some of the previous attempts by British pugilists to achieve what he charmingly refers to as "that impossible dream: a British World Heavyweight champion". Just hearing Harry's voice again choked me up a little...

Luke G. Williams

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