Bruno on The Mend

03.11.03 - By Jeff Day: In a heart-warming and wholly honest interview on British televisionís ITV network this evening, one of Britainís all time favorite sportsmen, Frank Bruno spoke of his recent illness. Bruno has been suffering from depression and was placed in a hospital under the UKís mental health act and spent a number of weeks there and was discharged last week. Frank was diagnosed as being a manic-depressive (shades of Mike Tyson back in the 1980s) and obsessive disorder. Bruno is still hugely popular with the British public and there has been a great wave of sympathy for him in his current plight.

It seems Frankís world started to fall apart when he was told he would not be permitted to box anymore due to retina damage sustained in his last fight against Mike Tyson back in 1996. He tried to do television work to keep busy, but like virtually every fighter before him, Bruno could find no substitute for boxing.

He has seen his marriage to wife Laura break up and former trainer and friend George Francis commit suicide in the last year. He and Laura had been together since their teenage years and Frank admitted that he has had difficulty coming to terms with their divorce. They have three children, all of whom now live with their mother.

Francis, also trainer of John Conteh and John Mugabi among others, had lost a son and his wife to cancer. Even for this tough man, he could no longer contemplate living. So itís understandable why Bruno slumped into a state of depression.

Frank has at least acknowledged his problems: he spoke of saying and doing some rather strange things like driving his car erratically, albeit on quite and empty roads; buying numerous second hand cars and even lorries. He admitted that when buying items of clothing, like shoes, he would buy more than one pair at a time.

He had been sleeping in the boxing ring that is set up in his back garden. Even riding a bike barefoot whilst wearing a gumshield. He remains on medication and plans to continue his work in pantomime (theatre mainly aimed at children throughout the Christmas and New year period).

Bruno admitted that he wanted to restart his boxing career because he Ďfanciedí his chances against Olympic champion Audley Harrison. That will surely remain a pipe-dream. Even without this recent episode in his very eventful life, it is extremely unlikely that the British Boxing Board of Control would re-license Frank.

This week the former European and WBC heavyweight champion will lead out Englandís amateur boxers when they meet their American counterparts in London. By a strange quirk of fate, the United States will be led out by former Bruno opponent, former WBC and WBA heavyweight king, Tim Witherspoon.It will be remembered that Witherspoon and Bruno met at Wembley Stadium in July 1986 for the WBA crown; Tim winning in the 11th.

It is most unlikely that Bruno will ever be enshrined in Canastotaís Hall of Fame, but if he fights his demons with the same courage and determination that he brought to the ring, then Frank will win his toughest fight of all.

Although often looked upon as a figure of fun, even a buffoon, Bruno was anything but. He was an astute business man who knew his worth in the ring and often played on his so-called lack of intelligence. You do not win the European title, fight for various versions of the world title against the likes of Mike Tyson (twice) and Lennox Lewis if you lack mental and physical fortitude.

Frank, everyone in (and out) of boxing wishes you well and hope you have a healthy and happy life. Know what I mean!

Article posted on 03.11.2003

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