'Boxing took me from borstal to belt-winner' - Frank Bruno launches new charity in Northampton
Posted: Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:39
Sporting legend Frank Bruno has revealed how boxing was a 'therapy' for him - and now he wants the sport to help others with mental health conditions too, after launching a new charity in Northampton.
More than 100 people - including Ron Tulley, Head of Development at England Boxing, and local England & GB boxers Ben & Carl Fail - packed into Far Cotton Amateur Boxing Club in Towcester Road, to get a glimpse of the former champion as he launched a new project he hopes to have running at the club from May.
The Frank Bruno Foundation will, providing it can attract funding, support people with mental health conditions, or young people with difficult behavioural problems through "non-contact" boxing sessions at the Far Cotton club.
The venture, supported by Northamptonshire Sport and England Boxing, is a joint effort between the national treasure and former head teacher of the Gateway School in Towcester, David Lloyd. The pair met in 2012, when Mr Bruno attended the school to give counselling sessions to some of their youngsters.
Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo, the affable champion - whose own battle with depression has been highly publicised - said setting up his own charity has been an ambition for many years.
He said: "It has been an ambition right from when I retired to be honest. I met Dave and I went to his school to do some counselling sessions. Back then we started talking about boxing and the Frank Bruno Foundation."
But the former heavyweight champion is now hoping the foundation can attract funding to get off the ground.
He said: "It's very, very good - a lot of kids are going through a lot of problems, you know what I mean? This is about connecting with people."
Mr Bruno has been open about his battle with bipolar disorder since leaving sport and said part of his reason for setting up the charity was because boxing became a "therapy" for him in both his younger life and his career.
The youngest of six went to a "borstal" aged 12 - but taking up boxing gave him discipline.
"Boxing was a good therapy for me. I started very young, when I was eight. It got me going down a good road, you know? Any sport, it requires concentration and determination and if you can instil that in them young it gives them the right skills growing up."
Mr Bruno says he also wants to take an active role in the non-contact boxing sessions at Far Cotton, rather than simply lending his name to the foundation.
Speaking from the launch, Alex Le Guével, Sports Development Officer (NGB's) at Northamptonshire Sport was keen to point out the impact boxing can have on mental and social wellbeing.
"Boxing has the power to transform lives. It has an almost unmatched capability to engage some of the most disaffected young people and help to combat a massive range of social problems."
"The consistent and disciplined environment of the boxing gym provides enough stability to allow young people to be flexible in their exploration of identity at an often critical period in their development. The sport provides a chance to experience fear in the body, and work through it, seeing that it is possible to face fears and not be overwhelmed by them."
Chairman and co-founder David Lloyd hopes the foundation will expand to more venues. The non-contact sessions will involve all of the training drills associated with boxing, including work on punch bags and pads, but the youngsters will be not take part in competitive bouts as part of the project.
Though it is yet to receive charitable status, he is confident that the venture will attract lottery and government funding.
"This is our first one," he said. "But over a period of three-to-five years we want to open the project out across the country, if we can."
"Through the medium of non-contact boxing we want to help people recovering from mental ill health; people with special educational needs. It will help to build their self-confidence and their discipline."
For more information about Boxing in Northamptonshire, please contact Alex Le Guével – Sports Development Officer (NGB's) at Northamptonshire Sport:
firstname.lastname@example.org / 01604 367133