When online videos emerged last week of an admittedly conditioned Frank Bruno sparring at Ricky Hatton's gym, the boxing world buzzed online with admiration for the fitness and fighting spirit of a man who has had more than his share of problems over the years. What no one hardly contemplated however, was an awful idea forming on the horizon of the old warrior considering pulling on a pair of gloves competitively again.
That was pretty much confirmed after a shaky and somewhat dishevelled interview on ITV's This Morning programme this week in which Frank Bruno showed worrying signs of his old demons as he railed against various subjects. His most disturbing reveal however was that at the age of 54, he was contemplating returning to the ring after a sabbatical of more than 20 years.
Whilst it's highly unlikely Bruno will receive a conventional boxing licence, it shows the extent to which fighters, even after years of retirement, still crave not only the bright lights of the fight game but also the physical domesticity of a boxers life. Bruno in particular has spoken on record before about missing the day to day routine of boxing, where everything from diet to sleeping patterns are measured and drilled with military precision. When that's taken away, surprisingly for a high percentage of fighters it's no relief. Retirement in fact is more of a slog and a sentence than sparring and early morning runs could ever be.
Psychologically, often it's hard for boxers to reach retirement at all. You only have to look at the way certain fighters go on too long and become unrecognisable caricatures of themselves. Certainly the careers of James Toney and Roy Jones Jnr are currently panning out that way. Often though it's just as much a problem for the boxing organisations to shoe their fighters out of competitive contests and harms way than it is to throw them back into the sport. There's a certain moral hypocrisy to that however, and interestingly the Bruno debate has thrown up a few different opinions, rather than the whooshing of thumbs down from the majority of observers as the news of his possible return broke.
Fighters such as Tyson Fury and David Haye for instance have raised the subject of personal choice, and particularly the idea that if Frank Bruno has been using a possible comeback in boxing as a recovery tool to his mental illness problems then who has the authority to deny him that right to carry on? Unfortunately however, boxing is a combat sport and carries too much of a risk to take chances. As much as it might seem a stigma against mental illness and a moral high ground in assuming that someone who has had those sort of problems should never have the ability to make their own life choices, there's just too many other negatives stacked up against Frank Bruno to make the idea plausible. This was after all a man who was told by a doctor after his battle with Mike Tyson that one more fight could blind him. Add to that his age, and the fact that he was never the most mobile, and his mental illness becomes another factor, not just the only one. It's ultimately like standing on a sinking ship and gambling on which side tips into the high seas first.
It might sound a cliche but boxing is both progressive and a young man's sport. At its heart and in its alchemy are both excitement and more than a little unrelenting cruelty. There have been too many examples recently of ageing fighters taking punishment that they wouldn't have taken in their prime. It would be more than a travesty if Frank Bruno was the latest once proud warrior forced to walk that dangerous line. He deserves much better than that.