LONDON -- Frank Bruno, the British heavyweight who fought Mike Tyson for the championship two years ago, said Thursday his boxing career could be over because of a serious eye injury.
The 29-year-old fighter, one of the most popular athletes in Britain, said he was 'dumbstruck with the terrible shock' when he was told during a routine check-up he had a torn right retina.
'I'm afraid I do understand what this all could mean,' he said. 'But I refuse to get completely down because there's still hope.'
Bruno is to have eye surgery but he fears he will be forced to retire. He has not fought since his fifth-round loss to Tyson in February 1989, when the retina tear apparently happened.
Bruno said he was told of his condition bya specialist at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
'I didn't have the faintest idea that anything was wrong,' he said. 'I didn't have a single symptom beforehand, no spots before my eyes or blurring of vision.'
No date has been set for Bruno's surgery, but he shrugged philosophically: 'I have to get it done. Obviously it's a setback in life, but we'll have to see how the operation goes.'
Even before news of his injury, the chances of Bruno returning to the ring seemed slim since he has spent more time involved in show business than boxing.
But Bruno said he had been in training recently to 'see if I still had the appetite for boxing.' A couple of weeks ago, Bruno went to his Canning Town gym with Manager Terry Lawless for sparring sessions.
'Though it wasn't hard sparring, I have to say I'm pleased with the way it went,' he said.
There had been reports of a $5.4 million three-fight package for Bruno starting this summer, including a possible rematch against Tyson, but his 11-year-career now looks to be over.
'Everything is now up in the air, and I don't know what's going to happen,' Bruno said.
But, even if the operation is a success, Bruno would need clearance from Britain's boxing authorities, who these days demand the toughest medical examinations before allowing injured boxers to fight again.
The reaction from Bruno's countless friends in British boxing was almost unanimous -- he should not risk a comeback.
'I suppose he could have an operation on his eye and try to box on,' said Gary Mason, a rival British heavyweight who was forced to quit because of eye trouble: 'But I think he would be stupid to take that road. He has been to the top, why put himself through all that I had to go through.'