To Williams, and anyone with an eye for a fight plan that would have offended the Marquis of Queensberry immediately, it seemed that he was on the losing end of it from the opening session when the referee, Dave Parris, was required to warn Bruno for holding and hitting.
Other infringements including a forearm smash in the eighth that brought him another severe reprimand, cost Bruno two half-points, and therefore he shared two rounds he would otherwise have won.
People conclude this to be a new Bruno, no longer the nice guy, but a rough heavyweight who is now prepared to step outside the rules. In truth it is the Bruno who bravely, but unsuccessfully, challenged Mike Tyson for the undisputed world heavyweight championship, the Bruno who was repeatedly warned without incurring punishment, when stopping Pierre Coetzer in October last year.
'It's a hard business and it doesn't get any easier,' Bruno said yesterday while George Francis, an old time trainer with the guile of a safecracker, looked on benignly. Doubtless Lennox Lewis will take a look at moving pictures of Bruno's latest effort and conclude that it would be extremely unwise to enter the ring with him without being armed with a few tricks of his own.
For the contest to survive, Lewis must first successfully defend the World Boxing Council championship against Tony Tucker on 8 May in Las Vegas, but it is very much in Bruno's mind, and he thinks about it enthusiastically.
No more enthusiastically than Lewis's manager, Frank Maloney, who is of the opinion that his man would see off Bruno in fewer than four rounds. 'Maloney is talking out of his backside,' snorted Bruno when that provocative point of view was put to him.
As always, Bruno put in a maximum effort when defeating Williams at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, losing only one of the nine completed rounds, and raising a great deal of support from the audience. However, there was always the impression that he would have experienced extreme difficulties against a younger, more ambitious, version of the man who came out of the opposite corner.
Compared with some of the American opponents he has easily demolished in the past, Williams, self-managed, looked encouragingly lean until the weigh-in revealed a slack torso. As he had not gone to the expense of bringing over a chief second, instead employing a local man, Nobby Nobbs, it was impossible to think much of his prospects.
Perhaps the indignity of a loss to Bruno who has no stature to speak of in the United States, was what made Williams such a willing worker in spite of persistent fouling. And in occasionally taking the contest to Bruno, stinging him with fast jabs, once driving in a left hook that sent spray spinning from the Londoner's large head, always an easy target for quick punchers, he underlined the truth.
It is that Bruno, who was cut for the first time in his career, a gash in the left eyelid that needed five stitches, remains a predictable, slow moving heavyweight, a hard, but ponderous puncher, relying on raw power and basic moves.
Certainly Lewis's supporters have every reason to suppose that their man will be the clear favourite if he eventually gets together with Bruno.
Naturally, Duff thinks this undersells Bruno's performance. 'I was very pleased with it,' he said. 'Mostly because he showed good stamina. And don't forget, Williams twice knocked down Tommy Morrison who is, in my view, the strongest white heavyweight in history.'
True to form, Duff refuses to acknowledge that Bruno is less than a serious threat to anyone in the heavyweight division.
Francis is certain that Bruno can knock out Lewis. 'There are a couple of flaws in him that would be very much to Frank's advantage,' he said. Those words did not make Bruno feel better because on the morning after the night before he could not think of anything to feel bad about.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content