Mental Illness is Former Heavyweight Champion's Toughest FoeWritten by Leroy Cleveland
He's been in the ring with the likes of Mike Tyson (twice) but this former world heavyweight champ is dealing with an opponent far greater than anyone's he's fought.
With a career record of 40 wins only 5 loses and a blistering 38 knockouts, what could possibly derail this man of men?
Frank Bruno was the first fighter to expose vulnerabilities in a prime Mike Tyson, wobbling him several times in the opening round of their first meeting in February 1989.
But perhaps his grandest achievement in the ring occurred on September 2, 1995 when he lifted the WBC Heavyweight Title from Oliver McCall at Wembley Stadium in London, United Kingdom.
In addition to fighting 'Iron Mike' twice and giving Lennox Lewis all he handle for seven rounds, he's defeated former champions Oliver McCall, Tim Witherspoon and Gerrie Coetzee as well as highly-rated contenders James Tillis, Jesse Ferguson and Carl 'The Truth' Williams.
And although Frank Bruno's final bout, a 3rd Round TKO loss to Tyson was 16 years ago, he is still one of Britain's most loved sports stars.
Now 50, the former champ has recently spoken out about the crippling effects of his toughest opponent yet - bipolar disorder. It's what led to him to be hospitalized several times in the last 9 years and twice within the last 12 months.
"Mental illness is a very powerful thing. If it is with you, it is probably going to be there until the day you die."
"I am trying so hard to break mine but it is not easy. It is my toughest fight ever.
"At least in boxing it is 12 rounds and then you come out. In hospital I could never see when it would end."
Out of the hospital and back home from his recent stint, Frank is critical of the care he received and believes the mental health system needs wholesale changes. And now, he's on a personal mission to improve how mental issues are perceived and addressed in Westminster.
"Being in the hospital didn't make me better – it made me worse," said the British fight legend who has been under the care of community doctors who visit him monthly.
"I'm determined to do all I can to help. Some of the doctors who looked after me were excellent. But areas could be improved."
"There is a tendency to treat people with drugs but they are not always the answer in the long-term."
Sue Baker, a representative of Time to Change, a mental health program that works to improve public attitudes towards people with mental health problems, said: "Frank has made a significant contribution to de-stigmatising mental health problems."
But can a somewhat shy, former champion who is in the midst of another battle with his own personal demons make a difference? Changing long-standing approaches to mental illness and public stigmas of people with mental health ailments is a noble task.
Certainly Frank understands he must stay mentally healthy himself in order to help bring about positive changes in the treatment for and perception of mental illness. It may not be easy, but given all he's accomplished in his career and the unwavering support of his girlfriend, Nina Colletta, it would be unwise to bet against him.
Frank Bruno is a winner... In the ring and in life.
"This may well be the toughest fight of my life – but I am going to do all I can to win it."
Frank Bruno insists no-one should feel ashamed for having a mental illness and urges fellow mental health sufferers to seek help
Source: Daily Record