“I live alone at home and I think I will die alone like this is happening”
There is little love lost, even now, for Lennox Lewis, who referred to Bruno as “Uncle Tom” in an insult suggesting the Londoner sold his Caribbean roots to be part of the white establishment. Even today, a thoughtful Bruno is still clearly hurt by the incident.
“He upset me saying stupid things,” says Bruno. “I shouldn’t have let him. Only a two-sided rat could tell someone is Uncle Tom when their mom is from the same Jamaica as my mom. I would never call my mom like that or anyone, but it hit that low.
“I don’t need to get off my pedestal or crawl past it because it’s nothing to me. It was very mean to say such a thing. He can take that, thank you, and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I should have beaten him. But the best won overnight.
What followed is a poignant story of how mental health can fall apart. Recently Bruno was severed during the lockdown and paints a grim picture of what the nervous breakdown and subsequent treatment can cause. “I know what some people suffer from,” he says. “I know there are a lot of men, because of testosterone or whatever, they won’t admit that their arm or their toe hurts or that they don’t feel very good in their brain.
“But someday they’ll get there and understand exactly what I’m talking about. I wouldn’t want them to take the same route as I did, where I had to take medicine and inject myself into your a — every month. It’s not a good thing to go through. They never let you go through the doors to see what’s going on. The way they treat a lot of patients there is sad, very sad. “
“Fury is a good man – deserves his success”
Bruno is busy these days, openings, ribbon cutting, folk meetings and training in his foundation. “It’s a 12 week course,” he adds. “A lot of people are afraid to come, but when they do, their confidence is gone. I don’t teach people to box, I help them.
“[It is] non-contact boxing, just for exercise. It allows them to let go of the pressure they have. It’s a good atmosphere. I can’t wait to get him moving. Tyson Fury has his name pictured to help the Frank Bruno Foundation and I’ll wait and see what kind of mood he’s in. He might be a little drunk right now so I’m not going to push the boat out. He’s a good man, very nice. I want Tyson Fury to win because he broke all the mental things he’s had and deserves his success.
On the current heavyweight scene, Bruno would love to see Anthony Joshua win back his belts, but says the former Olympic champion should come out and “bully” Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk. He is also a fan of Fury, the two men having had to face their demons, and would love to see Fury and Joshua meet in the ring, believing that “it would be good for British boxing”.
Bruno may have been a fighter in his youth but, he insists, it’s not boxing. For him, a man who can speak authoritatively about the mental and physical benefits of the sport, suggestions that boxing should be discouraged – or banned – are absurd. “Why should it be banned?” He said. “Golf could be classified as a more dangerous game than boxing. What is it done? Everything is dangerous. You can drive in a car with the 200 mph limit. They could die. Play rugby and you’re the guy with the knee and foot in the face. This is called rugby. Boxing is just one on one. Some people like to run, some people like to swim, some people like boxing exercises. It’s a very powerful game. It encourages young people to get involved.
Fury and Joshua, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier – for most boxers, he’s another fighter they’ll be forever linked to. Not Bruno. Instead, he will always be associated with Harry Carpenter, the former boxing commentator who became such a close friend to Bruno before his death in 2010 and was the “Arry in one of the sport’s most famous catchphrases.” “I miss Harry,” he said.
“Sometimes you can call Harry to talk to him about something and get it off your plate.” He was a very constructive man, without nonsense, very competent. But we would laugh too.
Bruno raised millions for charity, brought joy to the nation through sports and entertainment, and sparked an important conversation about mental health. But, he said, “I’m just a guy from South London. Nothing in particular. Just a duck and a diver. Bruno, of course. is much, much more than that. And maybe the slogan king deserves a new one-liner: Arise, Sir Frank.