GUEST ARTICLE: Former WBC Heavyweight Champion Frank Bruno Breaks Down the Barriers He Faced During his Fruitful Career: Talks Mental Health Awareness, Winning & Presenting Coveted Green Belt

By Thomas Lyons

I was very fortunate to attend the next stop of famous Frank Bruno’s Let Me Be Frank tour, after releasing his very honest and emotional book that gives an account of his personal and mental struggles throughout, and in the aftermath of a long-standing career at the elite level. Presenting one of the most valued belts in boxing today, the World Boxing Council strap was a highlight of his appearance to the Hexagon Theatre in Reading. In front of a packed and engaged crowd who were his biggest fans growing up and following his career, despite some tough defeats to ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, Tim Wetherspoon, Lennox Lewis and James ‘Bone-Crusher’ Smith.

Starting with the very highs of the Hammersmith man’s career which collectively saw him record 40 professional wins, 38 of those coming by way of knockout and losing to only the very best. Bruno was someone not only that caught the imagination of the wider boxing fraternity but was considered a force in the states also before he went over their to fight Mike Tyson, who arguably goes down in history as the best heavyweight of all time. Frank eluded to the opportunities he was presented with when he turned to the paid ranks and fought with pride, passion, desire and respect for his opponents, every time he stepped foot in the ring.

Some of the main focuses of the discussion, with the inclusion of questions from the floor, talked about the state of the heavyweight division now with lineal champion Tyson Fury relinquishing the belts after dethroning Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf before unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua took the division by storm. Since that night the mix includes WBC champion Deontay Wilder who defends his title against Luis Ortiz this weekend and challenger to Joshua’s WBA ‘Super’, IBF and IBO titles Joseph Parker, from New Zealand.

However, closer to Frank’s heart were the deeper issues of him being sectioned a while back, his experiences in hospitals such as Goodmayes General Hospital, Family life, how he got into boxing and even walking his lovely daughter down the aisle for her wedding. Amongst other issues, it seems the large proportion of his book focuses on the down times and when Bruno felt at his most helpless and suffered from depression. For me personally, reading the book, it was an eye-opener to mental health awareness and now that Frank has set up his own foundation, the Frank Bruno Foundation he can help others who went through the same experiences, to overcome their demons.

When Frank visited the University of Reading last year, I managed to ask him ‘Frank, What was tougher, the physical or mental preparation ahead of your fights’. His reply to my question was that ‘boxing is 90% mental so that was the toughest thing to prepare’. It just shows you that athletes at the top of their game can suffer from bigger problems that are usually kept behind clothes in their personal lives.

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