Bruno fulfils dream at last

Unanimous decision over McCall delivers world heavyweight title and ends decade of disappointment
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AMID scenes verging on mass hysteria, at the fourth attempt Frank Bruno finally claimed a world heavyweight title last night when he produced an astonishing and stirring performance to out-point the reigning World Boxing Council champion, Oliver McCall.

Bruno thereby became the first British heavyweight this century not only to win a world title on home soil, but also to hold one as of right.

The three ringside judges gave a unanimous verdict to the Englishman - two of them making him an easy winner by 117-111 - and duly triggered off a torrent of patriotic fervour and celebrations around the stadium as fireworks and red, white and blue bunting rained down from the skies.

Even before the judges had pronounced their verdict the look of resignation on McCall's face had announced the result to the world. In time, boxing may come to judge McCall as one of the lesser lights to hold a world crown, but that should take nothing away from the sheer determination that underpinned Bruno's epic achievement.

At 33, and facing what was likely to be his last attempt at a title, Bruno had plainly been to the edge of the abyss and had summoned all his nerve to make one last surge for posterity. The pre-fight consensus had been that Bruno's best chance would be to impale McCall on his left jab, hoping for an opportunity to deliver the right-handed sledghammer which had so often swept away the china dolls he has been put in with throughout most of his career. There would also be a desperate surge to see if the left hook that hurt Mike Tyson in their title fight in Las Vegas in 1989 might still be in the challenger's baggage.

Against these hopes were ranged what proved to be unjustified fears about Bruno's stamina. The sub-plot also had an almost Jacobean strand of drama, with McCall once having been a mere sparring partner for Bruno. But now the underling was the master. We could only speculate about what memories of weakness McCall had retained.

But the opening two rounds, explosive in style and content, proved all the gloomy predictions wrong as Bruno displayed hitherto unknown reserves of aggression to take the fight right into McCall's face.

The familiar left jabs were there, but with a snap and a venom that suggested attack rather than defence and soon Bruno was throwing big rights to McCall's head. The unnerved champion drew Bruno into an ugly skirmish on the ropes but there was no denying the challenger.

McCall faked a smile after another right had smacked against his temple, but Bruno wiped it away in an instant with a thumping right cross. By the end of the first two rounds, the area below McCall's left eye was already a puffed and swollen testimony to Bruno's fire.

McCall was plainly thrown off-guard by both the attitude and the weaponry of his opponent. McCall's main hope at this stage was that Bruno's storm would blow itself out, but several smart right and left combinations from Bruno in the third forced McCall on to the back foot. "It's your fight Frank!" was the cry from Bruno's corner.

Now McCall retaliated, pumping lefts to Bruno's head. The crowd began to remember that McCall had never been downed or stopped in any of his 31 fights. During the fifth and sixth rounds, the champion pursued Bruno avidly and the crowd quietened as they feared their hero's stamina was about to run out.

An interruption for a loose tape on a glove hardly helped the concentration and by the end of round six Bruno's corner were glancing anxiously to damage above his left eyebrow. A chill wind blew in across the stadium as McCall forced himself back into the fight but in round eight Bruno's inventiveness was underlined by his turning southpaw to defend himself.

Rounds nine and 10 were clearly Bruno's as he cast aside any doubts about his ability to stay the distance. Urged on by the crowd, he shrugged off McCall's bull-like charges with straight rights to the champion's face. By the end of round 10 the crowd had sensed Bruno revival and two huge rights that had McCall back-pedalling again confirmed the Englishman's spirit

Bruno took the 11th, hitting McCall with smart combinations that left the champion with nowhere to go in the last round. He produced a manic surge, fearful of the imminent loss of his crown.

But with Bruno retaliating to the last, urged on at ringside by Nigel Benn, who had earlier retained his WBC super-middleweight title by knocking out Danny Ray Perez, the crowd knew that an astonishing British victory had been secured.