Anish Parekh looks at a fictional fight between Bruno and Joshua as part of BBN's popular Mythical Matchups series:
The heavyweight division captures the imagination more magically than any other. Of today’s generation, the noise being made by the public, demanding an undisputed show-down between title-holders Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury is reaching ear-splitting volumes.
Whilst we hope and pray for that mouth-watering clash to be made, we can also have a little fun fantasising the outcomes of a fight between two of Britain’s most beloved heavyweight champions – reignong unified champ, Anthony Joshua and former WBC champion, Frank Bruno.
Both men possess clubbing power, great jabs and an admirable amount of dedication – all wrapped up in imposing, Adonis-like physiques – which resulted in them reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
They have also drawn many of the same criticisms for being overly-muscled, lacking stamina and having questionable punch resistance.
Frank Bruno was the underdog story that captivated the nation in the 1980s and 1990s. After being stopped in his 22nd bout by James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, Bruno notched up a string of knockout victories before suffering heart-break three times in his pursuit for world honours. Each of them by technical knockout. On those occasions he was surprised by Tim Witherspoon, obliterated by a prime Mike Tyson and out-gunned by all-time great Lennox Lewis.
He finally claimed the WBC title, by unanimous decision against the enigmatic Oliver McCall, in front of 23,000 gleeful fans at Wembley Arena in 1995.
Bruno has often been derided for his vulnerabilities. However, objective perspective is necessary when you consider that four of those losses ended with Bruno still on his feet, all in world title fights and three of them to all-time-greats, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
There is a slightly unfair view taken that when Bruno did win the title, it was a ‘Cinderella Man’ style victory where the plucky underdog defied the odds to fulfill his dreams.
The truth is that Bruno had talent. The most renowned of his abilities was his power, which he can thank for stopping 38 of his 40 victims. He utilised an excellent jab in a variety of ways. He could double it up to offset his opponents. Use it to soften and slow his opponents by throwing it the body. Make it his range-finder to gauge distance. Disguise it to throw a check-left-hook. And most impressively, rely upon it as a weapon to do damage, which he did most notably when he knocked out Chuck Gardner, with a single, stiff jab. Bruno also threw a great left hook to the body, which would certainly come in handy against Joshua who has been susceptible to that punch.
Anthony Joshua is the modern-day Bruno in terms of how he connects with fans. He can be thankful for a rabid and loyal legion of followers who have packed football stadiums to be present at his most memorable nights.
If Bruno had to take the long and arduous road to a world title, Joshua practically had his handed to him as he dethroned the hapless ‘Prince’ Charles Martin, in the second round, to claim the IBF title in just his 16th professional outing.
It did not take long before he was confronted with stiffer tests. He drew the curtains on the career of modern-great Wladimir Klitschko, in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, winning the WBA title in the process, then unified further by adding the WBO version of the world title by outpointing world champion Joseph Parker in front of 80,000 at the Millenium Stadium.
‘AJ’ was riding on the crest of a wave, but that wave crashed quite spectacularly when he was shocked and stopped in the seventh round, on his American debut, in the famed Madison Square Garden against the unfancied Andy Ruiz Jr.
Joshua demonstrated great mental-strength and dedication by changing his approach to training and adopting a far more cautious and disciplined display, when he reclaimed his titles with a unanimous decision just six months later in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t the dominant and destructive Joshua that many had become used to, but it was a display of tactical astuteness and fine boxing ability.
Whilst not having the same subtlety or variation, Joshua himself does own an effective jab of his own. It’s quick, snappy and hurtful. He used it masterfully in his vengeance win over Ruiz to keep a safe distance before seizing his opportunity to land his clubbing right.
So what happens when these two power-punchers with underrated boxing skills clash in the ring?
I expect it to be a battle of the jabs, to measure the distance and score points early on. Both will be respectful of the others' power and avoid engaging too soon.
Despite being the shorter man by three inches, Bruno has the same 82 inch reach as Joshua and will double up his long jab to keep Joshua off balance and then bang to the body. This approach has worked successfully to varying degrees by Joshua’s adversaries - Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz, which caused the man from Watford visible discomfort.
As Bruno begins to gain confidence, he will maraud forward with greater purpose and begin to seek the head of Joshua. It will pay dividends early on as he buzzes Joshua on numerous occasions but as Bruno senses an end, Joshua will manage to cling onto him and survive the rest of the round.
This will be the catalyst for a more cautious approach from Joshua. He will begin circling the ring and make Bruno chase him. The biggest flaw in Bruno’s game is his lack of head-movement.
As an increasingly frustrated Bruno will begin get sloppy with his attacks and he gets countered with hard, fast and punishing straight right hands, with Joshua then wheeling away from potential rebuke.
This will become the pattern which is sewn into the fabric of the fight. An exhausted Bruno gives it his all but by the ninth round, as the last bit of energy seeps away, he is pushed against the ropes and a ruthless Joshua pounces to swiftly unload a barrage of bludgeoning blows.
The referee steps in to call a halt to the assault to the delight of Joshua and his army of fans.