Breaking Taboo -Boxing and Depression

It is often said boxing is a sport like no other , a sport that can give the ultimate highs and the deepest lows .Whilst the world celebrates and looks to join In with these warriors in there success ,the fighters at the other end of the spectrum are ignored and all to often left to face there demons alone , which can have tragic consequences .

I have got to an age now where my hero’s of the the ring have all but disappeared from the sport . One of my all time favourite boxers was Ricky Hatton , who has long since hung the gloves up after becoming a superstar within the sport in this country . After reaching the dizzying heights of boxing , Hatton knew when it was time to bow out , but as is so often the case with boxers, knowing when to hang them up is one thing , dealing with it is another . Ricky Hatton had a very pubic breakdown, battling drink,drugs and deep depression ,Hatton even admitted to trying to take his own life on several occasions. This once iconic warrior brought to the edge by a mental illness which Is rife throughout boxing but is hid like a dirty little secret  .

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I tried to kill myself several times,” Hatton said in an interview aired on BBC Radio 4.”I used to go to the pub, come back, take the knife out and sit there in the dark crying hysterically..”

Boxing has already lost so many young men who over the years just couldn’t cope with life outside the ring ,going back to Sonny Liston, Billy Collins jnr or more recently Arturo Gatti  all died young men struggling with depression , yet this epidemic is still rarely talked about withing the sport .A superstar like Iron Mike Tyson admitted to having severe depression whilst still fighting and going on a mission to destroy himself, yet across the press and boxing world he was ridiculed at the time .Just recently we had Nick Blackwell be very heavily criticised for sparring just months after being told he could never box again due to a bleed in the brain,which he picked up in his fight with Chris Eubank jnr . Now on one hand yes it does seem stupid to risk your life and it should never have been allowed , but take a step back and look at this from a different perspective . Nick Blackwell had his career taken away from him whilst still being a young man , all those years of work just taken away in the blink of an eye , surly that would be hard for any man to accept ? surly this spar should be seen as a cry for help .

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Mike Tyson: I used to equate sickness to blisters and dripping not psychological

So what’s the solution ?
When I was  interviewing Alex Arthur we spoke about his battles with depression when he gave up boxing , he agreed that boxing needs a better support structure for boxer’s suffering from depression after there final round is over. Boxing like society has to face up to this problem ,between fans,promoters and the boxers themselves setting up some sort of support network should be easy enough to fund . Boxing could learn from the British Army, when young soldiers are leaving the military they have the option of resettlement training which the army picks up the bill , rather than throw young boxers on the scrap heap why not give them the option to redirect there life . Most importantly I think boxing has to do more to acknowledge the problem itself as far to often guys like Ricky Hatton , who gave us some of the best nights of our lives ,are left to fight these battles alone  .

Steven Donnell

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