Stephen Brenkley sees hope turn into glory on a night of courage and drama

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The Independent Online
IT TOOK 13 years and four attempts, but Frank Bruno finally won his world title at Wembley last night. During that time his style and method have been regularly questioned but he took the World Boxing Council portion of the heavyweight crown from the champion Oliver McCall with a performance which not only demanded ambition but raw courage

He took severe punishment in the last few rounds and the 12th, which was utterly unknown territory for him, must have presented him with the most difficult three minutes of his entire life. But he stayed up, making the continuance of an intermittently disappointing career thoroughly worthwhile.

Bruno came into the ring at the same time as a group of army bandsmen took up their position near the ropes. They were there to instil patriotism into the baying audience, if it were needed, by playing the "Pomp and Circumstance" March. It was a bit worrying when they stopped short of the business part of the piece. Could it be on the grounds that there was no hope and thus there would be preciously little glory? But, no, they were saving it for the vital moments immediately before the first bell struck.

Bruno began with a threatening, thoroughly direct series of movements, though as each jab found its target the champion, who had entered the arena to a resounding silence which was rarely punctured even by the most desultory of boos, merely smirked. When Bruno landed on McCall's chin with a powerful right hand the look changed and it was a perfect example of knocking the smile from someone's face.

That set the tone of much that followed; Bruno did most of the punching, McCall walked forward, trying to contort his face into a grin. Whatever the bookmakers' odds - and the money, not all of it smart, made Bruno the favourite, there became a mounting belief that Bruno's ambition was to be realised. He was backed, as he has been down the years, by the staunchest of support, which made no secret that this was not just for Frank but for the whole nation. The stadium was perhaps only half full (though perhaps Bruno's detractors would say half empty) but the fans made a noise that many recent FA Cup finalists would have envied.

They were stentorian in the last moments when it truly mattered. All this might have been the culmination of fooling all the people some of the time. Some now will surely think it has all been worth it.