Frank Bruno MBE, pulled no punches during his appearance at the Middleton Cheney Sports and Social Club last Saturday evening.
The former WBC champ was the star attraction at a charity event organised by, and raising money for, Ella’s Fund, the Middleton Cheney charity set up in 2003 by Neil and Adele Markham.
Their daughter, Ella, was born in 2002 with Down’s Syndrome and the following year Neil’s father suggested setting up the charity as a way to support those organisations and charities that have helped Ella. To date the fund has raised around £60,000 which has been donated to the good causes.
Saturday’s event was the pinnacle of the charity’s events so far and not only featured the former champion of the world but also singer and family friend Megan Lapper, who got the sell-out crowd warmed up with a 30-minute set of popular songs, including a duet with Ella of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.
Megan, who will be going to university next month to study music therapy, said: “Ella’s known me all of her life. We were neighbours.
“She loves singing and dancing and that’s what sparked the idea of ‘can Megan sing at my event’.
“With the Bob Marley song she has a video on Facebook of her singing it so I saw it and thought we have to do that.”
Megan finished her set with ‘Happy Birthday’ for Ella who turned 15 last week.
At about 8pm, Mr Bruno arrived where he was ushered into the ‘members only snug’ to sign some boxing gloves for the auction later that evening.
Since retiring from the sport that made him a household name in 1995, Mr Bruno has filled the void with a variety of projects including pantomime, acting and charity work, and set up the Frank Bruno Foundation to help people with mental health problems via non-combative boxing.
Mr Bruno said: “I do so many different things, I do things for charity, the foundation, I’m president of the President’s Sporting Club and we’ve raised nearly £3million for handicapped children around the Essex area.
“It does fill the gap, sometimes you have to keep yourself busy.”
Big Frank was then introduced to the 150-plus crowd to raucous chants of ‘Bruuuno, Bruuuno’ and spent the next 25 minutes or so talking with fans and taking pictures with them.
He then sat down with Banbury’s own boxing legend and champion of local charities, Dave Earle, who acted as interviewer for the Q and A session.
Dave’s path into boxing – with a limited interest in school and salvation through the sport – mirrors that of Mr Bruno’s, and he asked him about his early career, his path into the big leagues and his struggles with mental health.
Mr Bruno was candid throughout and delivered his responses with his trademark sense of humour and famous deep belly laugh.
The microphone was then given to audience members to ask the boxing legend about anything they wanted.
The biggest laugh of the evening came when Frank was asked who his toughest opponent was. Without thinking he replied: “The tax man.”
He also brought the house down with his tales of the punches with which he had hit various opponents with.
Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams was KO’d with a shot he called ‘Sweeeet Potato’, while the left hook that rocked Tyson in their first meeting he called ‘the Elvis’ punch referencing the noise Tyson made when it landed.
Mr Bruno spent 90 minutes talking, joking and entertaining the crowd making it a memorable evening for those in attendance.
Neil Markham said: “When we set this up all those years ago would we have ever believed that Frank Bruno, the most famous British sportsman in my lifetime, would be part of it? It would have been a pie in the sky.”