Mike Tyson vs Frank Bruno: The sensational forgotten round which almost made ‘dreams come true’

The fight was pushed back when Mike Tyson broke his hand in a street fight and again when he was left unconscious after he crashed his car.

Frank Bruno waited patiently for the chance of a lifetime and his biggest payday. He had been waiting for over a year and watched helplessly as the first three dates came and went. Even Donald Trump was somehow involved in the fights that were meant to take place at Wembley Stadium in 1988. It’s easy to forget how big Tyson vs Bruno was at the time.

An early date in 1989 was announced, postponed, and then the Las Vegas Hilton was finally booked for 25 February. The Hilton had been the home to Liberace and Elvis Presley, and Tyson was the new king of the strip. The Hilton, by the way, is not on the strip.

Bruno would finally get his second chance at the world heavyweight title; the world would then get to see up close and personal what Tyson had left after a terrible year on the so-called safe side of the ropes.

In Tyson’s wild life there had been a fight at midnight on a street corner, a suicide attempt, a costly divorce, a sacked trainer and rumours of meltdowns; Tyson was in trouble and the kid was still only 22 at the time. He had fought eight consecutive world title fights in just over two years. He was a sensation.

This was also, make no mistake, Bruno’s chance because of Tyson’s problems. And Big Frank was getting a record $4m. No other British boxer in history had made anything like that sum.

Just under 10,000 people were in the Hilton, and over 2,000 were travelling Bruno fans. They kept up a chorus of love for Bruno, but everyone knew it was a massive risk and that Bruno was a big, big underdog. “I believe dreams come true,” Bruno had said.

Mike Tyson (left) in action against Frank Bruno in 1989 (Getty)
Mike Tyson (left) in action against Frank Bruno in 1989 (Getty)

Less than one year later, James Buster Douglas, an even bigger underdog, knocked out Tyson to win the world heavyweight title in Tokyo; dreams do come true in the boxing ring.

The first round between Tyson and Bruno was one of the most dramatic in heavyweight history. It is often overlooked, but it was truly sensational.

In the ring before the first bell, Tyson looked more focused than normal. His new trainer, Jay Bright, was very much a spectator in the distance. Bruno’s gaze never left Tyson’s eyes when the referee, Richard Steele, pulled them together.

At the very start of the first round, Bruno tried a stiff jab, Tyson caught Bruno high on the head with a glancing right and then bundled Bruno over. It was 11 seconds in, Bruno was down, and then Tyson connected with a free shot – a sickening right uppercut when Bruno was on one knee. Bruno’s fight looked like a lost cause with just seconds gone.

Bruno then took more punches than any man had so far managed in fights with Tyson. Bruno held and hit and grappled and tried to land big shots. He lost a point for holding with about 70 seconds left. Bruno was taking heavy punches and landing his own, and Tyson was catching him flush. It was heroic and then a left hook connected clean with Tyson’s chin and his legs buckled, he did a little dance, and then he was holding.

Tyson would go on to beat Bruno again in 1996 (AFP via Getty Images)
Tyson would go on to beat Bruno again in 1996 (AFP via Getty Images)

The clock showed about 40 seconds left and they went for each other, both landing. It was exceptional and at the bell to end round one, they both glared at the other. Bruno was not done and would never quit, and that is often forgotten.

What a round that was. However, it took a toll on Bruno, and he was stopped in the fifth – on his feet, but hurting. His defiance was not enough, and Tyson retained his IBF, WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Bruno left the ring and left Las Vegas with the money and the respect.

Tyson would lose the title to Douglas, and Bruno would win the heavyweight title in 1995 and fight Tyson one more time in Las Vegas in 1996. Bruno lost again and that was the end for the national treasure; Tyson’s career slowly came to a bloody end over the next nine years, and it was hard to watch.