FLICKY HARRISON meets the legendary boxer ahead of his Swindon ‘audience with’ show

FRANK Bruno, the former heavyweight champion of the world, will be chatting about his boxing career, his new book and his plans to help those suffering from mental health problems when he comes to Swindon.

An Audience with Frank Bruno takes place at the Wyvern Theatre on February 12.

On stage with the popular boxer will be the comedian Jed Stone, who is no stranger to the sporting world having toured with sports stars including Mike Tyson, Ricky Hatton, Paul Gascoigne, Sugar Ray Leonard and Larry Holmes.

Frank said: “I met Jed a long time ago. He is is a nice guy, very professional and a good compere.’’

Frank’s boxing career began in 1982. He won 21 consecutive wins by knockout straight off the bat. Overall he won 40 out of his 45 bouts, scooped the WBC European Heavyweight title and became Heavyweight Champion of the World, defeating Oliver McCall at a packed Wembley Stadium in 1995.

“When you have a dream at eight years old, you go on that journey and never give up until you win at 35 years old. It is incredible,’’ said Frank.

Among his opponents through the years was Swindon’s own boxing star Eddie Nielson, two bouts with the mighty Mike Tyson, Joe Bugner and Lennox Lewis.

“Eddie was a nice guy,’’ said Bruno. “I met him again not too long ago. Mike Tyson was tricky and powerful, short and awkward to fight, but you always try to be your best and never give up.’’

Frank’s friendship with BBC sports commentator the late Harry Carpenter gave the boxer a wider appeal as the public lapped up their after match banter and Frank’s catchphrase ‘Know what I mean ’Arry?’ became a household phrase.

“Harry was very popular and a classy man. He is missed,’’ said Frank.

The athlete’s rigorous schedule has stood him in good stead for a career after boxing as he applies his mantra - work hard, train hard, have belief in yourself and have God on your side - to everything he has undertaken since he retired.

His discipline certainly helped when he appeared as the ringmaster in the pantomime Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Bristol’s Hippodrome in 1996.

“It [pantomime] really is hard, a very different thing, but you have to make every show as fresh as the first. It needs to be a knockout,’’ he said.

Along with guest appearances on television shows such as The Weakest Link, Comic Relief, Fort Boyard and chat shows, Frank was invited on The Sooty Show!

“As a boxer you have to spread your wings,’’ he laughed.

He also turned his hand, or rather his voice, to music, releasing a single, Eye Of The Tiger, which reached number 28 in the UK charts.

“We had a producer who put it together, it didn’t do bad,’’ said Frank. “It’s a motivation song. I did watch the Rocky movies but they were a bit far-fetched.’’

Another athlete who ventured into the realms of music was footballer Paul Gascoigne and, like Frank, he too has suffered from mental health problems.

“I talked to Paul about it,” said Frank. “It helps to talk, to have a shoulder to cry on. No one should be too proud to talk about it.

“Don’t bottle it up and walk around in your head with your feelings. We are more advanced about mental health issues now and this gives people the confidence to get it off their chests.’’

The boxer is currently setting up the Frank Bruno Foundation to help youngsters from the age of 10 years with non combat boxing and wellbeing classes. Frank has won his training licence and is currently looking for a gym to base the foundation.

His latest book, Let Me Be Frank, is already a best seller and he will telling stories from it when he comes to Swindon.

Tickets for the show are £32 and Meet & Greet Tickets: £35 from 01793 524481 or visit www.swindontheatres.co.uk - Flicky Harrison