Bruno fast running out of fall guys

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The Independent Online

A problem for boxing promoters is finding suitable opponents for championship contenders whose ambition is greater than their talent. While shielding the fighter from serious threat they hope to persuade the public that his prospects remain substantial.

In Frank Bruno's case, what used to be a test of Mickey Duff's ingenuity has been taken up by Frank Warren. Considering it inadvisable to risk the possibility that Bruno will be provided with a fourth title attempt, Warren's choice was limited. It fell on Rodolfo Marin, from Puerto Rico, whose World Boxing Council Hispanic heavyweight championship qualifies as a secret.

Marin, 30, who is fighting Bruno in Shepton Mallet, near Bristol, tonight, was selected on the basis of apparent durability and technical shortcomings, a trusted formula that figures prominently on Bruno's record. The correct assumption is that Marin has been employed to bring him further public attention. An upset, even a close contest, is not on the agenda.

Marin's record of 20 victories in 23 professional contests with 17 knock- outs, eight in the first round, collapses under scrutiny. The majority of his opponents were either from the lunge and stumble school of boxing or dedicated pacifists. Riddick Bowe shattered Marin's nose when knocking him out in the second round and a former contender, Tyrell Biggs, scored an overwhelming points decision.

In an attempt to give the contest some credibility, Bruno cites the most recent of Marin's adventures, a narrow loss last November to Joe Hipp, who for reasons known only to the WBC is ranked No 7 in their heavyweight ratings. This week, Bruno moved Hipp up four places. "Marin took the WBC No 3 to a split decision," he said. This suggests that Bruno's arithmetic is on a par with his footwork.

Once, when a revered tutor, the late Ray Arcel, was asked to describe smartness in boxers who were not known for their technical brilliance, he said, "They want to know who they are fighting and how much they are going to get." The second phase of Bruno's career has been a celebration of that philosophy.

Self-managed since coming out of retirement three years ago, he gave probably his best performance when stopped by Lennox Lewis in Cardiff for the WBC championship. Otherwise he has been receptive to information indicating a lack of desire on the part of prospective opponents. Jesse Ferguson, who went quickly at the National Exhibition Centre in March last year, was a good example.

A problem with boxers in Ferguson's category, those with at least a reasonable reputation, is that they cannot be relied upon fully to entertain the audience. Of course, it was not Bruno's fault that Ferguson showed no interest in extending the proceedings, nevertheless the American was chosen carefully.

In time, such events do less for fighters than promoters like to imagine, which is partly why Bruno is going to work in the West Country, not London, Birmingham or Manchester. Predictability brings disenchantment.

It is loose thinking to suppose that fighters should confine their activities to the best men available. Nevertheless, there is only so much that the public are prepared to tolerate. Despite suggestions to the contrary, it is not possible to fool all of them all of the time.

The loss to Lewis further emphasised Bruno's inability to cope with a crisis. As with Lewis, so with James "Bonecrusher" Smith, Tim Witherspoon and Mike Tyson, the only men to have beaten him.

No crisis can be imagined for Bruno tonight. But it will do him a favour if Marin is in the mood to go down fighting.



33 Age 30

6ft 3in Height 6ft 31/2in

240lb Weight 225lb

82in Reach 801/2in

48in Chest 49in

17in Bicep 16in

14in Forearm 15in

34in Waist 36in

241/2in Thigh 25in

18in Neck 171/2in

14in Fist 13in

41 Fights 23

37- 4 Won - lost 20 - 3