Boxing: Gentlemen in league: Ken Jones witnesses the restrained build-up to Frank Bruno's fight on Saturday against Pierre Coetzer

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The Independent Online
WHEN they came face to face for the first time at a press conference in Northampton yesterday, Frank Bruno's first move was to find Pierre Coetzer a chair. 'Why don't you sit there?' he said, rising politely.

Coetzer nodded. On Saturday at Wembley they will be in a more belligerent mood but these days the British Boxing Board demand restraint in the quest for airtime and column inches. 'He's a gentleman,' Bruno said when asked what he knows about the South African, who will not be going anywhere if he loses this eliminator for the International Boxing Federation heavyweight championship. 'I even know what size shoes he takes,' Bruno added.

Bruno also knows that Coetzer sustained a small cut when sparring with Joe Bugner Jnr. 'Yeah, it sounds good to me,' he agreed. Clearly, it didn't sound all that good to Mickey Duff, who was thinking about doing good business. Cuts in training are bad news at the box office. 'Not a cut, just an abrasion,' Bruno's astute promoter insisted. 'Didn't cost Pierre a day's training. Come up and take a look. There isn't anything there.'

Nevertheless, Alan Toweel, who manages Coetzer, is insisting on time for repairs if accidental damage to his man's eyes occurs during rounds. 'We accepted a British referee (Roy Francis) so I think we are entitled to ask for this,' he said.

Coetzer's record is three defeats in 42 professional contests. 'He looks very impressive,' Bruno said, coming in right on cue with his pantomime routine. 'Lovely moustache, smart hair style, wears nice shorts.' Coetzer shrugged, smiling beneath the privet hedge that curls down around his mouth. Bruno was asked to be serious. 'A tough cookie,' he said, employing a favourite phrase.

Almost three months ago Coetzer was stopped on a technical knockout in the seventh round by Riddick Bowe, who is challenging Evander Holyfield for the undisputed championship (no account is paid to the World Boxing Organisation version) on 13 November in Las Vegas. 'It wasn't as one-sided as some reports suggested,' Toweel said. 'At the end Pierre was still in there fighting. He didn't go down and Bowe was allowed to get away with a lot of blows.'

Coetzer claims that he was over the experience in just two days. 'Bowe didn't hurt me that bad,' he said. 'I was in terrific shape. As good as I am now.'

According to Toweel his reason for advising Coetzer to leap at the chance of fighting Bruno was simple. 'We are talking about one of the biggest names in boxing,' he said. This was exactly what Duff wanted to hear. He could not have scripted it better. 'A heavyweight is a heavyweight,' Toweel added. 'No matter who they are if they connect they hurt. If you're hurt badly enough you'll go down. Pierre is capable of knocking out Frank.' Duff's grin grew wider. He was thinking in headlines.

Curiously, Duff was at pains to keep things in perspective. 'This is an eliminator for the IBF title, not a final eliminator,' he said. Perhaps it is his way of emphasising the sacrifices he is prepared to make.