Boxing: Bruno prepares to take on world: Mike Rowbottom finds Britain's favourite heavyweight boxer in the salmon pink

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FRANK BRUNO, currently surveying the world from deep in the Leicestershire countryside as he prepares for the third fight of his comeback, has the additional prospect of a world title challenge looming on the horizon.

The promoter Mickey Duff announced yesterday that he has offered Evander Holyfield, the American who holds all versions of the world championship, pounds 5m to fight Bruno at Wembley in April or May next year. Bruno would pick up pounds 2m, with pounds 1m going on overheads.

The initial response from the Holyfield camp, Duff says, has been encouraging. But if he is to have a third crack at becoming world champion, several things must go his way, not least his meeting with Pierre Coetzer at Wembley on 17 October.

Assuming Bruno can beat the durable South African - something he is highly unwilling to take for granted - and assuming Holyfield beats Riddick Bowe in his mandatory defence on 13 November, then there appears to be a basis for negotiation.

The third complicating factor, however, is the meeting of Britain's naturalised Canadian, Lennox Lewis, and Razor Ruddock on 31 October to establish the No 1 World Boxing Council challenger. Neither is likely to be amused at the idea of Bruno stepping in to have a first go at Holyfield; however, Duff points out that as the world champion is making a mandatory defence, he has six months' grace before he has to face any mandatory challenge.

'It is very good money for Holyfield, more than he could make in the US for this sort of fight,' Duff said. 'Besides, he would probably think of Bruno as being an easier fight than Ruddock or Lewis.'

But as the promoter warmed to his speculative theme yesterday - holding court at the hydro and health farm near Ashby-de-la- Zouch which has served as Bruno's training base since he returned to the ring last autumn - the boxer beside him began to shift uncomfortably in his chair.

'If you keep on trying to do this one and keep that one sweet you make added pressure for yourself,' Bruno said. 'A lot of people get cocky and flash. I don't want to run before I can walk.'

At 30, Bruno has become a cannier operator inside and outside the ring. He now manages his own financial affairs; and he handles the press with ease. He was asked yesterday how excited he was with this latest shot at a world title, given that he had not quite . . . 'made it. Yeah,' Bruno said, completing the faltering question without palaver. 'Well, I am much more mature now, even physically. I believe this is my time.'

The temporary presence of Bruno and his entourage in their artfully co-ordinated salmon and pale green environment has created a frisson among the predominantly female inhabitants. His training sessions in a marquee have been well attended by women in towelling robes; the calisthenic exercises, according to Bruno's trainer, George Francis, have been particularly well received.

The piles of food which regularly disappear from Bruno's plate in the restaurant have also aroused admiring glances. He is around 17 stone, with not a pinch of fat on him, mind, and has been mixing it with heavy opposition. The men with whom he sparred six sharp rounds yesterday - Anthony 'The Bear' Wade and Dave 'Big Foot' Johnson - are 18st 3lb and 20st 5lb respectively.

Afterwards photographers clustered round Bruno like expectant gulls as Francis taped a poster of Coetzer on to a punchbag. 'Ready?' inquired our man. One thudding left hook sent the paper sailing towards the ground amid dazzling flashes of light. Duff turned away, shaking his head with an amused scepticism. All in the game, all in the game.

(Photograph omitted)

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