32 years ago two of the best heavyweights in the world went to war.
A young fiery undefeated Mike Tyson was drawing attention from all over the globe, knocking out majority of his opponents in brutal fashion and becoming the youngest heavyweight champion at the tender age of 20.
In the other corner stood a likable beloved man adored by the British public and his family Frank Bruno.
Bruno v Tyson directed by Oscar winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald tells an in-depth story of the highs and lows of two sporting icons in their run up to fighting each other. From the very beginning the documentary introduces Bruno by talking about his childhood and upbringing, being expelled from school and incarcerated at a young age. Boxing becomes a way out for Bruno as he sees no other option in terms of career path.
We are then introduced to a young Mike Tyson who similarly had run ins with the law. Being arrested 38 times before the age of 13.
We see the development of both fighters through archived footage and post recordings of family members and close connected individuals. While Bruno captivates the love of the British public and supporters, Tyson becomes more feared and unpredictable in the eyes of the media.
After the first fight with Tyson the documentary focuses on Brunos influence outside of the boxing world. He is portrayed as nice friendly guy in commercial advertisement and TV as well as appearing in pantomime. Bruno is ridiculed by some of his opponents and members of the black community as being a ‘sell out’ and seen as an uncle tom in his over obedience to the entertainment business. The documentary perfectly captures his struggles with bipolar and mental health while showing his desperation to win a world title.
We see Tysons development from a well-mannered young man starting boxing under the watchful eye of his old trainer and mentor Cus D’Amato. After the death of his close trainer and carer Tyson becomes uncontrollable and chaotic, crashing his car, being accused of abuse by his partner Robin Givens and breaking up with her subsequently. In a shocking upset Tyson drops his world title in Tokyo against James ‘Buster’ Douglas a complete underdog. The following year in 1991 the ex-world champion is arrested on accusations of rape in a hotel room. He is sentenced to six years in prison but ends up spending three years in an Indiana youth centre before being released in 1995.
Tyson remains in the mind of Bruno even outside of the ring after a 3 year break from professional boxing. After 13 years of trying to become the heavyweight champion of the world Frank Bruno finally achieves his dream beating Oliver McCall in the Wembley Stadium in front of 23,000 British fans. This is an incredible moment for Bruno, in a post fight interview on the edge of the ring he says with tears rolling down his face and a swollen eye, “but I love my brother. I’m not an Uncle Tom. I love my people. I’m not a sellout. I’m not an Uncle Tom.”
All of the past thoughts of the public and media are cleared up by Bruno in one night. Tyson has no one to support him like Bruno he is taken under the wing of a renowned American promoter called Don king. He’s presented as a shady character that is fixated on money and ripping off fighters and exploiting them. The documentary conveys the image and influence of both fighters and how they change overtime. When Bruno loses a fight the public and his family still adore him and support him, but if Tyson loses he has no one.
In the final part of the documentary in the present day Bruno travels over to America to meet with Tyson. Still plagued by mental health problems and bipolar he reaches out to Tyson to talk about how they have both changed over the years since their fights. This documentary authentically captures the emotions and stories of both Tyson and Bruno very successfully. It does not shy away from difficult topics, such as Tysons criminal convictions and Brunos battles with racial discrimination and mental health. Bruno is portrayed as the acceptable face of the black community in Britain by the media establishment and advertisement at the time, whereas Tyson is regarded as dangerous, chaotic and unacceptable. Despite having similar upbringings Bruno is not seen as a fighter and more of a kind and caring individual that most grandmas would invite round for tea. This documentary successfully shows how Tyson and Bruno were conveyed in the media and the similarities and differences between them.