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Watch > Episode > Frank Bruno - British Boxing Legend and Mental Health Advocate

Frank Bruno - British Boxing Legend and Mental Health Advocate

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Frank Bruno is the former British heavyweight world champion boxer. Known for his incredible punching power, Frank won a total of 40 fights, 38 by way of knockout.

He fought Lennox Lewis for the title and had two epic bouts with Mike Tyson, the second ending his career. Frank Bruno is one of the most well loved and recognisable boxers in Britain and his life and struggles with mental health have been highly publicised in the media. In his new book “Let Me Be Frank”, he opens up about living with bipolar disorder in the hope of taking away some of the stigma attached to the illness, which we discuss in detail as part of this landmark London Real interview.

Franklin Roy Bruno’s boxing career took off in the late 1970s when he began his professional journey in the heavyweight division. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall, Bruno quickly became known for his imposing stature and powerful punches. His early successes and rapid ascent through the ranks garnered attention, setting the stage for what would become an illustrious career.

In 1985, Bruno faced Tim Witherspoon in a title bout for the WBA heavyweight championship but was unsuccessful in clinching the title. However, his tenacity and skill earned him another shot at the championship in 1986, this time against the formidable Oliver McCall. Bruno emerged victorious, securing the WBC heavyweight title and realising his dream of becoming a world champion.

Bruno’s victory in 1986 solidified his place as a heavyweight force, and he went on to defend his title against a series of opponents. The charismatic and affable Bruno endeared himself to fans not only for his boxing prowess but also for his sportsmanship and approachability outside the ring.

However, the world of boxing is often marked by triumphs and setbacks. Bruno experienced the latter when he faced the formidable Mike Tyson in 1989. Despite a valiant effort, Bruno succumbed to Tyson’s power, signalling a temporary halt to his championship reign.

One of Bruno’s most remarkable qualities was his resilience. Despite setbacks, he didn’t let defeat define him. In 1995, after multiple attempts, Bruno achieved a monumental feat by reclaiming the WBC heavyweight title. His victory against Oliver McCall showcased not only his skill but also his ability to bounce back from adversity, a testament to his unwavering determination.

Frank Bruno’s impact extends beyond his achievements in the boxing ring. His amiable personality, genuine sportsmanship, and resilience in the face of challenges endeared him to fans worldwide. Bruno’s legacy is not just about the titles he won but the way he conducted himself both inside and outside the ring.

In the years following his retirement from professional boxing, Frank Bruno faced personal struggles, including battles with mental health issues. Bruno’s openness about his own mental health challenges became a catalyst for change. Instead of hiding behind the facade of a tough athlete, he became a vocal advocate for mental health awareness, challenging stigmas and encouraging others to seek help.

Bruno’s courage in sharing his mental health journey made a significant impact. He became involved in various initiatives aimed at promoting mental well-being, and his advocacy work transcended his status as a sports icon. Bruno’s vulnerability and authenticity became powerful tools in breaking down barriers and fostering a more compassionate conversation around mental health.

In recognition of his contributions to boxing and his advocacy work in mental health, Frank Bruno received numerous accolades and honours. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1990 and later upgraded to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017 for his services to boxing and mental health.

Frank Bruno’s life journey is a narrative of triumphs, setbacks, and personal growth. From the heights of a world champion to the depths of personal challenges, Bruno’s story is one of resilience and redemption. Beyond his boxing legacy, Bruno’s impact in destigmatising mental health struggles and advocating for a more compassionate society is a testament to the transformative power of vulnerability and authenticity. Frank Bruno remains not just a boxing legend but an inspiring figure whose journey transcends the confines of the ring, leaving an enduring legacy in and beyond the world of sports.

Chapters

00:00 | Trailer
02:38 Brian’s thoughts on the episode
04:57 Brian’s introduction
05:36 London born countryside lover
06:16 Learning respect for elders, manners, discipline and focus
07:13 Why Frank was sent to borstal aged 12
09:54 Why he decided to get into boxing and how he developed in the sport
11:30 What made Frank a very good boxer
12:06 Frank might have been a Pentecostal priest
13:28 Losing his father at an early age
14:19 Frank won his first 21 fights but with so much still to learn in order to survive
17:16 Memories of winning the 1995 world championship having learnt from the losses
20:06 Blood boxing is a business: who and what helped Frank achieve his ambition
21:52 The unbelievable boxing scene of the 1980s
23:20 Why Frank doesn’t class himself as famous
24:57 Early memories of sparring with Mike Tyson
27:20 In praise of Cus D’Amato
32:00 The two fights with Mike Tyson
35:51 The fight with Lennox Lewis
36:40 Moving on from losing a fight
37:29 How he would have felt if he had not won the world championship
37:58 How difficult it was to retire and deal with life afterwards
41:01 Coping strategies for dealing with his Bipolar disorder
42:50 Being sectioned having a bad experience of medication
45:39 Setting up the Frank Bruno Foundation and the need for investigation into drug use and side effects
52:15 Practising yoga
52:58 Sectioned for the second time ten years later
55:54 What Frank hopes people take from his new book “Let Me Be Frank”
58:59 Frank is looking forward to becoming a grandfather
59:31 What Frank thinks of the game of boxing today with Joshua, Haye, Fury and Chisora1:06:24 The MMA and boxing cross-over fight between Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor
1:09:09 The British public’s love for Frank
1:09:54 Success secrets
1:10:39 Frank has learnt from so many in the past and continues to be open to enlightening and empowering himself
1:11:37 The best day of Frank’s life
1:12:12 What keeps him awake at night question prompts that famous laugh
1:12:41 What scares Frank
1:12:55 Frank reveals a frustrated passion
1:15:46 Frank recalls Donald Trump’s long association with boxing
1:16:50 Don King the boxing promoter was no “puddy cat”
1:17:55 Frank has watched London Real
1:19:11 Phone call to the 20-year old Frank Bruno
1:20:43 Best advice ever received
1:22:08 Advice to young people wanting to improve their life or the world in which they live
1:24:22 Brian’s praise for new book “Let Me Be Frank” and its encouragement for adopting a questioning attitude
1:26:46 Brian’s summing up.

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