Boxing: Bruno battles closer to title chance

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The Independent Online
FRANK BRUNO consolidated a position on the fringe of the heavyweight championship when he stopped Pierre Coetzer, of South Africa, after 2min 17sec of the eighth round here last night.

In marked contrast to the two previous opponents Bruno had met in his comeback Coetzer fully lived up to his reputation as one of the toughest men currently going to the ring.

With a heavier punch he might have given Bruno serious trouble, and in any case forced him to adopt a rough style. Bruno was repeatedly warned by the referee Roy Francis for holding and using his shoulders, and the further the contest progressed Coetzer's susceptibility to cuts looked as though it would be crucial to the proceedings.

Stopped in seven rounds by Riddick Bowe in June this year, Coetzer did slightly better this time and may feel more than a little hard done by in view of Francis's reluctance to administer more severe warnings.

Bruno was clearly ahead when a left and right sent Coetzer down and almost out of the ring. The South African regained his feet, but his corner had decided he had had enough and a towel came into the ring as Francis called a halt.

It remains to be seen where this puts Bruno. Coetzer is a good name on his record, and if the old limitations in leverage and mobility are still apparent, nobody could deny that he would be a reasonable opponent for whoever holds the heavyweight championship next year.

Although marginally the taller man, Coetzer was giving away a substantial amount of weight, 23lb to Frank Bruno, who at 17st 6lb was easily the heaviest of his career.

The South African immediately made it clear that he was not about to let Bruno take the initiative, forcing him back against the ropes in his own corner.

There was still a blemish beneath the South African's right eye from where he was cut in training, but he looked in a serious mood and again drove Bruno back into the ropes in a neutral corner with a two-handed attack. Bruno began to get his own jab working and then tried a big overhand right before being reprimanded by the referee for holding his man in a clinch. When Bruno was then warned for hitting low, Coetzer immediately retaliated with one of his own.

Coetzer had arrived with a reputation as one of the most durable heavyweights currently at work in the ring, but midway through the second round he was already blinking with his left eye and feeling for the smear of blood that showed beneath it. Bruno was guilty of holding again, but it was his jab that seemed to be taking some of the steam out of the South African. He twice sent Coetzer's head back with a stiff left hand and had clearly recovered from the surprise of Coetzer's opening assault.

Coetzer's corner men were hard at work in the interval between the second and the third round, repairing the damage that had already been done to their man's face. Not only the small contusion beneath his left eye, but swellings on both cheeks.

But there was nothing fragile about Coetzer's spirit. He proved to be as game as they come, shaking Bruno with a left hand and a right hook.

Bruno held again without getting a reprimand from the referee, and then jolted Coetzer's head back with another jab. Coetzer then got through with a good left hook, following this up and driving Bruno back against the ropes.

The audience responded enthusiastically when Bruno stepped up the pace towards the end of the round, and Coetzer was vigorously admonished in his corner by his manager Alan Toweel for allowing Bruno to regain the initiative. The cut under Coetzer's right eye had opened up by the fourth and Bruno went to work on it with his jab, but Coetzer rarely gave ground and did plenty of damage of his own when he got inside.

Bruno was warned again before being bundled back into his own corner. And when the bell went, he turned and sat heavily on the stool, although he had clearly won.

The cut beneath Coetzer's right eye was getting worse, and Bruno's weight advantage was beginning to tell. Coetzer, however, was still eager to stay with him, refusing to leave room for the jab. Another foul by Bruno, this time with the shoulder, brought yet another warning from the referee, and by then the South African's face was a mess, although few of his fights have finished without the need for running repairs.

It was always thought that the contest would be determined by cutting blows to Coetzer's face, and both men were warned for dangerous use of their heads. Bruno's lack of variety, an old fault, encouraged Coetzer to come forward again, walking through cumbersome hooks to score to the body.

When Coetzer attempted to escape from the ropes Bruno bundled him back and then trapped him with a right hand. Toughness, an ability to absorb punishment, is Coetzer's main asset and Bruno looked as though he was beginning to run out of ideas. Bruno was clearly ahead, but against such a rugged opponent he was having to work harder than at any time since the first phase of his career.

And yet the South African continued to do well, drawing blood from Bruno's mouth and not uttering even the mildest protest when he was repeatedly fouled.

Bruno went back to the jab in the eighth round only to get hurt when Coetzer stepped inside with a left hook to the ribs and another to the side of Bruno's face. Bruno pushed, and then took another head shot, although there was nothing in it to trouble him. Then a left and right took Coetzer over beneath the bottom rope.

He regained his feet, but a towel came fluttering in from the corner as Francis stepped in to stop the contest.

PROFESSIONAL PROMOTION (Wembley Arena): 10-rd heavyweight (IBF title eliminator): F Bruno (London) bt P Coetzer (SA) rsf 8th. 6-rd featherweight: M Bowers (Southampton) bt N Matthews (Wales) pts. 6-rd heavyweight: J Bugner Jr (St Ives) bt S Gee (Birmingham) pts. 8-rd bantamweight: J Armour (Chatham) bt M Bernal (Col) pts.

(Photograph omitted)