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Indy Lifestyle Online
One group of people would be very sorry indeed to see Frank Bruno give up heavyweight boxing: the bookies. Bruno has given the bookmakers a wonderful run. He has fought for the world title five times, and lost four. Each time he was in the ring he attracted an enormous amount of sentimental bets, at terrible odds, from a British public who just love to back a loser.

In his latest debacle against iron Mike Tyson, Frank was backed right down to 5-2. That was incredibly bad value for, so to speak, a world- class outsider. In Las Vegas, Bruno was 7-1, which was tight enough. An alert gambler could probably have found 10-1 at one stage. Tyson ended up at 10-1 on.

Bookmakers William Hill took a record sum on the match, probably close to pounds 750,000. Their biggest wager was from a client who put pounds 50,000 on Tyson at odds of 4-1 on. Betting tax at nine per cent represented pounds 4,500. So his net profit was pounds 8,000 (pounds 12,500 less pounds 4,500) or close to 15 per cent return on his money (compare this with the annual return from a building society). This was offset by small bets from myriad punters who fancied a turn-up for the book. For example, Bruno to win in the final rounds was quoted at 80-1. "How could I resist those sort of odds?" an acqaintance asked me. Answer: very easily.

"Frank Bruno has been possibly the most popular sporting personality in the country for the past 10 years," is the explanation offered by Graham Sharpe, spokesman for William Hill. "The tremendous hype by the sports writers built up optimism that Bruno could do it, because Tyson was not the man he was. The public did not exactly con itself, but was led to believe that an outside chance was worth backing at short odds."

As sometimes happens to share prices, which are the subject of elaborate hype in the financial pages, the public forgot the fundamentals. Which in the judgement of boxing experts were that dear old Frank couldn't box, couldn't take a punch, and hadn't got a punch himself. Apart from that, it was a great bet.