Boxing: Clown's role was wrong for brave Bruno

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The Independent Online

However distressing the situation of Frank Bruno, it is idle to pretend that his current troubles are not at least in some small way related to the fragile nature of the fame and affection that was lavished upon him in a boxing career that was above all a masterpiece of manipulation.

He was given a role and he played it for many years, but it was not, with its scripted one-liners and obligation to play the buffoon on public occasions, one that was particularly conducive to the development of a secure personality.

Such, anyway, have been some of the reflections here as Bruno's troubles have carried him, hopefully quite briefly, to a hospital psychiatric wing. One point that can be made with absolute conviction is that sometimes the role of a clown weighed heavily upon him.

I know this from a conversation I shared with him on the plane carrying him home from his first defeat by Mike Tyson in Las Vegas in 1989. He was disturbed by news that a hero's reception was awaiting him at Heathrow. "I'm not happy about this at all," Bruno said, "because it was the last thing I had in my mind when I stepped in the ring with Tyson.

"I didn't want to be praised for finishing second. I had only one ambition then and it was to win the world title and bring it back to England to share with the people. Whatever you think of my career, I can tell you that has always been my greatest dream. You talk about my career just being about money. Well, we all like money, but I didn't go to Las Vegas just for a pay cheque. I went to win, for the people as well as myself."

This was before the start of his panto career. This was a man confronting the heart-breaking truth that maybe he wasn't as good as he had hoped - and the nation had been led to believe. It is that honest, vulnerable man who had had the ultimate courage to step into the ring that one should pray for most fervently now.