Boxing legend Frank Bruno leads new fight in Bristol
WITH the sound of his distinctive laugh there was no need for the visitor to a Bristol gym to announce his arrival.
Former world heavyweight champion Frank Bruno needed no introduction as he made his way into Bristol Boxing Gym.
Chris Sanigar, Frank Bruno and MP Charlotte Leslie
His visit, to a project supporting people with mental health issues through non-contact boxing sessions, was a perfect fit considering the difficulties he has himself suffered with depression and bipolar disorder since his career ended. And it proved an inspiration to the people running and benefiting from the service to meet someone who has overcome battles inside and outside the ring.
Bristol Boxing Gym ran its first session with the local mental health trust's Bristol Active Life Project last month on World Mental Health Day.
Now 11 people are benefiting from the box fit programme.
Mr Bruno spent time chatting with the people who attended yesterday's session and was also reunited with Bristol North West MP, who trained alongside him at Spaniorum Farm Gym in Compton Greenfield when he was in pantomime at the Hippodrome and she was a regular there as a teenager.
"I came here before, I did pantomime before but it is nice to be back again. Bristol people are good people and very, very nice," he said.
"It is nice to sometimes chat with people and talk about what they are going through.
"I think this is very, very good - as long as they don't get punched in the head too much! I think these people can show them more how it's done than me."
Chris Sanigar, who runs the gym's community engagement projects with Martin Bisp, said: "Frank was brilliant. In boxing it doesn't really get much bigger than Frank coming and with the mental health issues that he has had since his career ended it was great to see him engage with the people participating on the programme. For him to talk to them about what he has been through I am sure it is a day they will never forget. It is great to have someone like Frank supporting the programme."
Paul Davies of BALP said meeting Mr Bruno and seeing the reaction of the people involved in the programme left him with "a big smile on my face".
He said: "You could tell he is a nice guy, that's the first thing you get from him and because of his experience with his own mental health condition it was nice and relaxed and no-one was uneasy. They all sat down together in a room and had a chat and Frank was able to talk about some of the stuff that had gone on with him. He's definitely the right person to say what's going on and was happy to talk to everyone."
Ms Leslie, who is working on a report about how boxing turns lives around which will include the Bristol Boxing Gym project, first met Mr Bruno when she was dealing with her teenage frustrations through boxing and has since met him at Boxing Writers dinners.
"It was really lovely to see him come along," she said.
"He's obviously had quite a difficult time and it was lovely to see him speaking to the young men and a woman.
"He is really inspiring and taking the stigma out of mental health difficulties."
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