he is now busy rebuilding his life and raking in the profits of a new autobiography, but Frank Bruno’s retirement from professional boxing came at a high price. Bruno had been battling manic depression since hanging up his gloves in 1996 and, in June 2003, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Many reasons have been suggested for his breakdown: his mother blamed acrimonious divorce proceedings and he himself cited reckless drug abuse, but these things are symptoms of a more powerful malady. Boxing, the very thing that made him popular and successful, was his downfall. Professional boxing makes such intense demands on mind and body that Bruno failed to see beyond his next fight and, like many of his opponents, never made provisions for his future livelihood. All boxers live in the moment, wrapped up in the rigours of a sport that flatters to deceive and offers the most fortunate only a fleeting fame. It’s hardly surprising then, that the vast majority lack any further education or training and, when retirement interrupts the ritual cycle of training and fighting, are left completely resourceless. Henry Ccooper said that retirement comes as a shock to most boxers: “One day you are a boxer and the next you wake up and you have retired.” Gone are the regimented training routines and familiar pre-fight preparations. Ssuddenly, all that pent-up aggression must be channelled away from the punchbag, in a new direction. And that is easier said than done.Boxers who have depended for years on their sport’s unique adrenaline rush often return to the ring. Sugar Rray Leonard came out of retirement three times, most memorably when he challenged Marvellous Marvin Hagler in 1987, and George Foreman returned ten years after losing to Muhammad Ali. Not every boxer has the sense of perspective shown by Lennox Lewis who, after retiring, was asked what he would do if he was offered “silly money” to return to the ring: “I’d look just as silly” he said. All well and good for a man who has amassed a personal fortune of more than £100 million, but what about the jobbing professionals who can’t see where their next pay-packet is coming from? This is where the real problem lies; it is clear that most boxers, to coin a phrase, cannot “think outside the ring” and return to boxing through fear of the unknown. In California, the Rretired Boxers’ Foundation offers financial, medical and psychological help to retired professionals and aims to provide them with the life skills needed in retirement. If the sport is to prosper in this country, a similar support network is sorely needed and it is up to the BoxingCcontrol to pick up the gauntlet. Hhelping retired boxers reacclimatiseBoard of to the wider world is one thing, but broadening the horizons of competing professionals is also important;encouraging them to think outside the ring will offer some lasting reward for boxers and reduce the suddenshock of retirement that has taken the likes of Bruno so long to control.What is more, his story demonstrates problems facing all fighters and suggests that more should be done to ease their transition to happy retirement.ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005