I don’t normally watch the wishy-washy religious programmes on BBC on a Sunday morning but the interview show this past Sunday caught my eye. It was with former boxing champion and national treasure Frank Bruno.
Despite his laid back nature and nice guy persona outside of the ring, Frank was a ferocious boxer with a powerful punch. Mike Tyson later admitted that no other boxer had hit him so hard. Go back and watch their first fight – that was the first time to my memory that Tyson ever looked scared.
Despite several failed attempts to capture a title, Bruno would eventually fulfill his dream but he would lose the belt to Tyson six months later. It would spell the end of his boxing career at the age of 34.
Following this, Frank Bruno sank into a pit of depression. Not only was his career over with a catastrophic defeat and his title lost, but his marriage was on the rocks and his wife would eventually leave him amidst allegations of drug use and domestic violence. Feeling abandoned, Frank suffered a nervous breakdown.
Things became so bad that he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The Sun newspaper – proving themselves to be the scum of the earth once more – referred to “Bonkers Bruno” and joked about his mental state. They suffered their biggest public backlash since their reporting of The Hillsborough Disaster.
Frank has been sectioned several times since then but at the moment seems very much on the road to recovery. His kids adore him and his ex-wife seems to hold a lot of affection for him. His story brought a lump to my throat. I know that sense of loss and how easily a fragile mental state can utterly collapse when overwhelmed with those feelings. At my lowest points I have felt despair at feeling that I have given my all and yet have nothing left to fight for.
Loss is a powerful feeling. At best it brings us grief that we know will pass in time. At worst, it consumes us with despair and the feeling that we have nothing left to live for and will never again know happiness. I have lost so much and at times it has brought me to despair and on one occasion, to contemplate suicide. Yet each time I have managed to bounce back. Others have not been able to do so. Suicides for men are 3x that of women on average with the most likely group to attempt or succeed suicide being middle aged men.
Frank Bruno, you are a strong person and I salute you. Try to remember what you have and take strength from it: a loving family and a country that adores you. I hope someday you can conquer your demons and find a new reason to keep fighting.