1. EIGHT years before Frank Bruno challenged Oliver McCall for the WBC heavyweight title on September 2 1995, the pair sparred at the Royal Oak Gym in Canning Town. Bruno was rebuilding following a 1986 loss to Tim Witherspoon while the American was largely unknown. “We sparred for about 12 rounds,” Bruno remembered. “He caught me in the eye with his thumb. It was competitive, nice, but I don’t think he liked belly shots. I know he doesn’t, but he’s got a good jab and a lot of people underestimate that. No one got the better of it, but he was complaining when I hit him to the body, or on the border, and he kept saying ‘keep them up’.”
2. AS well as the defeat to Witherspoon, Bruno had also failed in world title bids against Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. It was Lewis who McCall shocked to win his belt the year before. Since then, McCall had notched one successful defence – a tight points win over the ancient Larry Holmes.
3. MANY felt this was Bruno’s best chance to lift the world crown he desired so much. Including head trainer George Francis, who had worked with Bruno since 1986. “Frank has improved immensely. He watches what he does every night and if he makes a mistake he puts it right the next day… He’s had time to mature. When we started he was very stiff and muscular. He’s still muscular, but he’s more flexible, he bends his knees and is a much better fighter. But I wish I had him when he was 16 or 17, because some habits are hard to break.”