Boxing: Showdown risks farcical ending: Bruno v Lewis world heavyweight title fight to be decided on points if rain interrupts contest

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The Independent Online
IF LENNOX LEWIS and Frank Bruno are finding it impossible to keep their feet on a rain-sodden canvas at Cardiff Arms Park in the early hours of tomorrow morning, and their contest for the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship has progressed beyond three rounds, it will be settled by a farcical decision.

A bleak forecast threatening more of the heavy showers that drenched the Welsh capital yesterday has forced the promoters to provide for a 24-hour postponement if there is heavy rain at 1am when the contest is due to begin, and the WBC to make contingency plans if the contest begins in the dry but there is then a downpour.

Should the referee, Mickey Vann, decide that it would be ridiculous to continue before three rounds have been completed, the fight will be declared a technical draw. If an interruption occurs any later, the man in front on the three official scorecards at the end of the previous round will be declared champion.

Since, if it continues to rain the canvas will be covered and the undercard abandoned, few believe that it will come to this, that Lewis and Bruno will be required to guard against quickly falling behind. A confident forecast is that things will go ahead no matter how inclement the conditions, and in any case Lewis is fancied swiftly to terminate the contest.

This does not appear to have registered with Bruno, whose unusually relaxed air prompts conflicting conclusions. Publicly devoid of the tension common to most fighters at this stage, patient and polite with admirers, chortling and humming in their presence, Bruno may simply be responding to the subconscious realisation that he is heading for the sunset of an entertaining if flawed career with the compensation of bulging saddlebags.

However, a fantasy could exist in Bruno's mind, his demeanour perhaps a manifestation of the notion that Lewis is not guaranteed to withstand a crack on the chin or comfortably handle the sort of aggressive mauling that upset even Mike Tyson and which he has been encouraged to employ since returning to the ring almost two years ago.

The absence of menace from Bruno's persona helps to explain immense popularity, but in stopping Pierre Coetzer at Wembley in April last year he was repeatedly warned for illegal tactics that included low blows, following through with his elbows and dangerous use of the head. 'Frank was rough-housing in there,' Coetzer's trainer, Alan Toweel, said, 'but so what. This is a hard game and we're not complaining.'

Lewis and his people will not be as philosophical if the boundaries of legality are crossed in Cardiff without a severe reprimand from Vann, and as the champion's trainer, Pepe Correa, has wickedly suggested Bruno's repaired eye is a target, the exchanges may not be confined to the contestants.

Interestingly, George Foreman, who is working for television, makes Bruno the winner on points. 'Bruno has more experience and he has been in with bigger punchers,' the former heavyweight champion said.

When it comes to precise judgements, boxers are about as reliable as jockeys, and Foreman is very much in the minority, at odds with calculations that make Lewis considerably the favourite. The overriding conclusion is that Bruno will be fortunate to be still there after six rounds against an opponent who has distinct advantages in mobility and hand speed.

Bruno's record of 36 victories in the 39 contests undertaken since his professional career was launched in April 1982 is misleading. Most of the opponents who finished looking up at his sculptured torso were little more than learning devices with no real enthusiasm for the work.

The truth about Bruno was revealed whenever he stepped up in class, first against James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, who was more or less anonymous at the time, and in two unsuccessful challenges for a world title. Smith knocked out Bruno in the 10th and final round when trailing on the referee's scorecard. Tim Witherspoon stopped him in the 11th for the World Boxing Association championship, Mike Tyson in the fifth for the undisputed title.

On each occasion Bruno proved himself incapable of coping with a crisis, so defenceless after taking heavy blows to the head, it was obvious that he had no survival instinct.

An important consideration is that no questions have been asked of Lewis in similar circumstances. Until the defence against Tony Tucker in May this year, all but one of 22 victories had been achieved inside the distance. He could have been in trouble when appearing to run out of gas in the later rounds against Tucker, who, fortunately for him, was equally distressed.

If the draining of Lewis's energy was probably the result of tension, there remains a suspicion that he is short on stamina, although it is unlikely to be a factor until he meets opponents of the highest class.

Bruno, at exactly 17st, had a 9lb advantage over the champion when they weighed in yesterday, but it is of no significance. The vital statistic is speed. Lewis is dangerously inclined to leave his chin exposed when delivering a jab, but he is by far the faster puncher, especially at long range, whereas Bruno needs time and clear-cut openings for his own power to be effective.

Unquestionably, the challenger has improved since he began working with George Francis, gaining the confidence to attempt more than just a stiff jab and ponderous, clubbing rights. He hurt Tyson with a terrific left hook and it is clearly his most damaging punch.

Getting it on is another matter. It cannot be imagined that Lewis will put himself at serious risk or, if the weather doesn't come into play, that he will fail to get the job done with at least four rounds to spare.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TALE OF THE TAPE ----------------------------------------------------------------- LEWIS BRUNO 28 Age 31 6ft 4in Height 6ft 3in 16st 5lb Weight 17st 83in Reach 82in 48in Chest (n) 46in 50in Chest (exp) 48in 16in Biceps 18in 14in Forearms 15in 34in Waist 34in 26in Thigh 28in 17in Neck 18in 17in Calf 16in 9 in Ankle 9in 14in Fist 14in 10in Wrist 9in 23 Fights 39 23-0 Record 36-3 20 Stoppages 35 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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