By Kris May boxblog.co.uk
Tyson Fury, the former unified heavyweight champion of the world has in recent times openly spoken about his struggles with mental health that forced him to vacate his titles and even contemplate taking his own life!
Fury’s persona is of an incredibly strong-minded person of sometimes controversial opinion, that combined with his strong traveller heritage where the number one thing you can be is a fighting man made it hard to believe that someone of the stature as the self-styled Gypsy King could be stuck down with something as debilitating as mental health problems.
He has on many occasions caused uproar in both the boxing community and the wider public with his views on sensitive subjects, something that Fury has apologised for in the past. Fury has himself recently spoken of how he struggles to watch the press conference to announce his abandoned rematch with Wladimir Klitschko stating that he was clearly unwell.
Listening to him talk about his darkest times with none or very little filter can at times make difficult viewing however it is both necessary to raise awareness of this growing problem, not just in boxing but in everyday life as well but also incredibly brave. He is one of a small group of boxers to speak out about the matter and try to break the stigma surrounding mental health.
In particular Fury has discussed how he worked his whole life to fulfil his dream of lifting the heavyweight title only to feel nothing when it was achieved, leaving his mental state in limbo, beginning his downward spiral.
Boxing has to address how they protect and support these men and women who give their all under the lights but sometimes are fighting far bigger battles in their head. Boxing as a sport is actively encouraged as a way to beat mental health problems with the training and discipline being able to focus attention away from other problems such as depression, more support you feel is needed to help fighters deal with the professional aspect of the sport.
Whether he lifts the title or not he has already won
At present none of the major sanctioning bodies have these resources available to boxers. What support is available to retired veterans who have given their life to the sport after their time in the spotlight is over also needs to be looked at as boxing can leave a huge void that is difficult to fill.
Boxing is littered of stories of fighters who have fallen victim to mental health problems after the glory days are over. As boxing fans, we are always paying for expensive PPV buys and tickets to follow and support our favourite fighters and the sport in general. Surely some of the millions that are generated can be set aside protect and these proud and courageous individuals.
For Fury himself you can’t help but feel that getting to the ring on December 1st after clawing his way back from the brink is a real life Rocky moment on its own, as he has said many times himself whether he lifts the title or not he has already won. However, you can’t help but wonder that if in sharing his story and using his very high profile to start to smash the stigma that surrounds mental health in sports, that this even more than his in-ring achievements will be his true legacy.