Boxing legend Frank Bruno speaks out about mental health issues during visit to Stepney Green


PUBLISHED: 11:29 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:46 26 March 2018

Jon King

Bruno praised local boxers Lawrence Okolie, Anthony Yarde and Daniel Dubois during the trip. Picture: JON KING


Firefighters from Bethnal Green fire station said they felt ‘privileged’ to meet a ‘British boxing legend’. Picture: JON KING

The former WBC heavyweight world champion was in Stepney Green on Friday where about a hundred fans queued along the Mile End Road to meet the man who went toe to toe with Mike Tyson.

Looking dapper in a sky blue suit the 56-year-old had selfies with fans in a rare trip to the area he once knew well having trained at a boxing ring on the first floor of Canning Town’s Royal Oak pub in the early days of his career.

And he was full of praise for the East End’s latest stock of home grown talent.

“Lawrence Okolie did very well against Isaac Chamberlain. He came out victorious. Anthony Yarde is a very powerful guy. Dangerous.

Tucking into a kebab, Bruno said it looked healthier than you usually get. Picture: JON KING

“And Daniel Dubois is a very good prospect, knocking out anything that’s in his way,” he added.

For youngsters starting out on their boxing careers he advised them to “train hard and live right”.

“You never know. The world is your oyster. There’s a lot of opportunities for youngsters today,” he said.

And the father of four – who last year admitted the biggest battle he ever faced was in his mind and not in the ring – advised boxers coming to the end of their careers to “keep busy”.

Fans queued along the Mile End Road to get a glimpse of the former heavyweight world champion. Picture: JON KING

“It’s like putting a car in the garage. It seizes up. You’ve got to keep your mind active. Look after yourself and keep your body active.

“You miss it. Some people go through depression and some don’t. You can get lazy, miserable and depressed,” he added.

Bruno – who helped break the wall of silence around mental health by speaking out when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003 – praised efforts in Tower Hamlets to remove stigma around the issue.

To youngsters facing difficulties, Bruno said: “If you’re feeling down or not feeling right, talk to somebody. There’s always someone to listen to you.

“Try and seek help early before it gets too bad,” he added before explaining how he used exercise and healthy eating to recover from his own demons.

During his visit Bruno joked and shook hands with countless fans, including firefighters from Bethnal Green fire station, who said they had been called to a fire alarm next door to the German Doner Kebab shop the boxer officially opened.

One of the crew, who asked not to be named, said: “He’s a British boxing legend. It was a privilege to meet him.”

Life-long fan Tooba Khawaja – from Stepney Green – after meeting her boxing idol, said: “He’s amazing. More sportspeople should be like him. He speaks from the heart and isn’t afraid to show his emotions in a very manly sport. I couldn’t miss seeing him.”

And fellow fan Jim Harte added: “It was great to see him come to Stepney.”