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Frank Bruno: 'I might have chosen football over boxing'

16 April 2019

When asked what one thing they associate sporting legend Frank Bruno with, most people would probably and not unreasonably suggest boxing or, at a push, Harry Carpenter.

They'd certainly be forgiven if football didn't spring to mind.

But speaking with ahead of his appearance at a 2019 Crystal Palace Sporting Dinner, Bruno revealed that in fact he once faced a choice between professional football or boxing as a young, aspiring sportsman.

Born in Hammersmith but raised in Wandsworth, the British boxing icon will be a well-known face to many from south London.

One of a host of names originating from south of the Thames now recognised as some of the country's finest sportsmen, Bruno's life may have taken an entirely different path had he stuck with his footballing passions. And with Wandsworth only seven miles from SE25, that path may have even led to Palace.

But, as so often happens with young football fans, Bruno's father altered the course of his son's fandom by taking him to West Ham United as a child. "My heroes were Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters," he recalls.

And so it would not be his more local Palace that Bruno grew up supporting but the Hammers instead and, perhaps more importantly, it was the ring and not the confines of a pitch in which the then-14-year-old chose to excel. 

Fast-forward 43 years and today Bruno stands above the crowd both in stature and standing as one of boxing's most iconic characters. Now with an MBE, a fighting record of 40 wins from 45 bouts - 38 of which ended in knock-outs - and a place forever in the annals of sporting history, Bruno is able to cast his eye over the current boxing scene, assessing in particular one man Palace fans may well recognise: Joshua Buatsi.

"Joshua Buatsi is moving in the right direction," he said, "and it’s like playing chess when choosing the opposition for someone like him. The fact that most of his wins were technical knockouts as opposed to straight knockouts or points, looking as a fan I would want to see him get a few more knockouts under his belt however we must not criticise a win however it comes.

"His team around him have got to decide when he can step up to challenge some of the other belts. He is going in the right direction and as a resident of south London, I can only watch his career with interest. Having Eddie Hearn behind him will help him get on the bigger stages. 

"Boxing is in a good place at the moment with lots of Brits in all weights either at World Championship status or very close to it."

Bruno spoke at one of Palace's Sporting Dinners, which take place when possible at Selhurst Park. It was a fantastic evening and, as the man himself revealed, delved through a host of engaging, hard-hitting topics.

Bruno explained what he discussed, saying: "Although it was a Q&A I generally covered from being a boy up until winning the World Championship at the third attempt. I talk about the fight against Oliver McCall, fighting Mike Tyson, what were my thoughts when I hit him and rocked him, how I got to be pals with Harry Carpenter, how the 'Do you know what I mean, 'Arry?' saying came about and my mental health battle since retiring.

"I talk about the treatment I received in hospital, when someone tried stabbing me and the drugs that turned me from a patient doing 4,000 press-ups a day into a zombie. I talk about the work I am trying to do with the Frank Bruno Foundation - trying to introduce non-contact boxing training for people with mental health problems. We talk about the current boxing scene: Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and others."

READ NEXT: How Palace fan Richard Riakporhe overcame stabbing to become cruiserweight champion boxer

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