Former WBC heavyweight champion Frank Bruno has said that he is ‘happy’ to be alive after years of mental health struggles after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Bruno, 61, is one of the most revered British fighters of his generation but 20 years ago his life took a downward turn after he was sectioned and admitted to Goodmayes Hospital where he spent a number of weeks.
He has been readmitted to hospital on occasion for treatment since, including recently in 2021 when he hit ‘rock bottom’ during the coronavirus lockdown.
Steadily, Bruno has built his life back up and in an interview with GB News detailed his health issues and how, despite his well-documented struggles, he manages to take the ‘rough with the smooth’.
‘I’m happy because I’m alive. I’m still ducking and diving. Life isn’t always easy, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth,’ he said. ‘I’m still training. You’ve got to look after yourself. Some days you are more miserable than others, but I’ve never liked taking medication and prefer to exercise.
Frank Bruno has said that he is ‘happy’ because he is alive after two decades of mental health struggles
The former British heavyweight has experienced well-documented mental health problems for much of the past two decades
Bruno is perhaps most notable for his two fights with Mike Tyson – in 1989 and 1996
‘The tablets slow me down and make me feel like a zombie. It makes you put on weight and you start dribbling and you don’t recognise yourself.’
Bruno’s life in the aftermath of the 2003 ordeal has not always been easy, as evidenced by his reaching ‘rock bottom’ in 2021, but he has strived to carry as positive outlook on life as he can.
‘You can’t expect everything in life to be hunky-dory,’ he said. ‘You’ve got to go through the rough to appreciate the smooth, and I’ve done that.’
Having retired after his second defeat to Mike Tyson in 1996, Bruno’s life began to spiral. He had been in the sport since 1982.
He admitted that he struggled in the aftermath, citing going from fighting in front of ‘millions of people’ to no longer having that constant in your life.
‘It can be a little bit of a nightmare, because once you’ve been involved with the game, and boxing in front of millions of people, it can be a little bit hard to cope with. You’ve got to find something to occupy yourself.’
At the time of his sectioning two decades ago, the British press were accused of being insensitive in their coverage of the incident. However, Bruno himself holds no particular animosity towards the media, claiming they helped make him ‘a lot of money’.
‘I don’t resent the press,’ he insisted. ‘They are there to help you get where you want to get. So you can’t really knock it. They helped me make a lot of money.’
The former WBC heavyweight champion said that he is compelled to fly the flag for Tyson Fury after his similar experiences
In scenes eerily reminiscent of those experienced by Bruno 20 years ago, another highly regarded British heavyweight in Tyson Fury went through his own issues with addiction and mental health issues before making a rags-to-riches return to the top of the sport. Bruno claimed he feels compelled to ‘fly the flag for him’.
‘He’s very, very good. He’s got himself together. Tyson was in a bad place and he pulled himself together,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to fly the flag for him because he has had some serious mental health issues and he’s come through it. I pray to God that he keeps well.’
Bruno is perhaps most famous in the conscience of the wider public for his two fights against Mike Tyson, in 1989 and 1996 – losing both.
‘True Brit’ was asked about almost beating Tyson in their first bout, humbly admitting that in the end he was given a ‘beating.
‘I thought I had him,’ he laughed. ‘But as soon as he recovered, he punished me and gave me a beating. It was a good fight, he was much better than people give him credit for and was a dangerous fighter as well. At his best he was a beast.’
Bruno’s best night in the ring came in 1995 at Wembley when. he claimed the WBC heavyweight belt
Bruno has since launched his own foundation that strives to help people struggling with similar issues
Bruno did eventually win the world title, beating Oliver McCall at Wembley in 1995, though surrendered it just six months later to Tyson.
Having set up his own charity, the Frank Bruno Foundation, he has become something of a spokesperson for mental health issues and a crises that many view as an epidemic across the public.
Taking the government to task over their perceived lack of support for people experiencing similar to himself, Bruno said he and others had been left at the ‘side of the road’.
‘These politicians don’t do anything,’ he said. ‘The last time I went to the House of Commons, I was among a lot of people, sports stars, business people, teachers and others. They said they were going to help with mental health. But they’ve left me and others at the side of the road.’