Few laughs in latest Bruno farce

The sporting orbit in which Rudolfo Marin moves is made clear by the purse he received for providing Frank Bruno with 65 seconds of painless activity. The Puerto Rican was paid around £12,000, a pitttance by even moderate international heavyweight standards, which probably is a clue to why he displayed so little interest in the proceedings. Promoters get what they pay for.

Clearly, in Shepton Mallet on Saturday night, a couple of Bruno's stiff jabs filled Marin with deep foreboding and seriously affected whatever resolve he began with. A cuff on top of the head discouraged him completely.

Up from a count of four, he could find no reason for staying in there. Relief came with another cuff that landed above his left ear. Marin took the full count gratefully. When it comes to cuffability, Bruno is unquestionably in world class.

Predictably, Marin proved to be yet another of the British hero's stepping stones. He represented Palookaville. The odds of 9-1 against Bruno winning in one round were handsome. As a warm-up for the fourth world title attempt he has been promised, the contest was meaningless. "I wouldn't allow Marin in my gym, not even to shadow box," said Emanuel Steward who has taken on the difficult task of improving Lennox Lewis.

To be fair, making matches for Bruno is as difficult for Frank Warren as it was for Mickey Duff and Terry Lawless. Unless there is more on offer than makes economic sense, leading contenders are reluctant to engage with him.

As three failed title attempts have shown, Bruno falls considerably short of today's best standards but an accurate impression of supreme fitness and great strength discourages the interest of prospective opponents.

Bruno cannot be blamed for Marin's blatant surrender (he could have spared us the assertion that the Puerto Rican was a worthy opponent who simply froze in his glowering presence and wilted when struck) but the British Boxing Board were entitled to have given the matter more than casual attention.

It falls within the Board's authority to withold a fighter's purse until an explanation has been received for apparent lack of ambition. When this was suggested to the general secretary, John Morris, as a justifiable course of action and with precedent, he said: "We can investigate a boxer's record and his training, but we cannot make him fight.

"Frankly I think the occasion terrified Marin. Who can say what was in Marin's mind. He looked in good condition and I will not denigrate Frank Bruno's performance."

This is loose thinking on the Board's part. A majority of spectators at the Western Show Ground maintained a form of enthusiasm appropriate to the novel experience of seeing Bruno in the flesh, but with extreme difficulty. A farce is a farce in any location.

It was compounded by the sort of ludicrously theatrical entrance that has become such a wearisome feature of televised boxing, Bruno unveiled in the spotlight by the drawing back of a Union flag on the balcony. To his credit, he looked exceedingly embarrassed.

The ease with which Bruno achieved his 38th victory in 42 professional contests means that since being stopped by Lewis for the World Boxing Council title in October 1993, he has had less than two rounds of boxing. Marlin went the way of Jesse Ferguson, who lasted less than two minutes in Birmingham 11 months ago. This latest affair was another insult to the public's intelligence.

Equally, it is nonsense to suppose that Ross Hale, who won a Lonsdale Belt outright after outpointing Malcolm Melvin in a second successful defence of the British light-welterweight title, is equipped to take on Frankie Randall for the world championship. The Board should veto the idea immediately.

n While Nigel Benn threatens to withdraw from his defence of the WBC super-middleweight championship against Gerald McClellan at the London Arena next Saturday because of a dispute with Frank Warren over VAT, the promoter insists that it relates to the little known fact that Benn is no longer a UK resident. "I've been informed that, as a visitor, Benn is liable to tax at source," Warren said. Also, Benn is being sued in the High Court this week by his former trainer, Brian Lynch.

n Due in London yesterday, Don King has remained in the United States to attend a hearing that could possibly result in Mike Tyson's immediate release from prison.

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