The glitz and glamour of boxing has captivated millions around the world. Multi million pound purses and the vast number of attending celebrities have popularised boxing to even the casual fans. The drama, the ferocity and the excitement culminate together to create heroes to which boxing fans worship. Unfortunately there is something bigger than boxing and something bigger than all the boxers. Depression can and has attacked the sport in many ways and has become apparent over the decades of boxing but the biggest question is whether or not the boxing associations are doing enough to help those who are suffering from depression.
Fighters train to reach the pinnacle of the boxing world. Facing 12 three minute rounds they enhance their physical and mental fitness to great scales in order to last the 12 rounds to reach the top. However many boxers are fighting a battle that does not span 12 rounds but throughout their lives, every minute, second and hour of the day. Depression is an illness that has veered itself into the boxing world on many occasions affecting the people we admire and look highly upon. Boxing legends Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and George Foreman are some who have publicly admitted suffering from bouts of depression, whether it was during their illustrious careers or after retirement. However there are those who today suffer from this illness that choose to fight the battle alone, privatising the illness even from their own families. It’s a sad but harsh reality and no one is immune to suffering from depression but questions arise as to how boxers are being helped in order to eradicate such a major problem and the types of help on offer.
There is an element of positivity in boxing when it comes to depression. Stories of great boxers who had suffered from depression have become public in order to help those suffering quietly. British boxing hero and former champion Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton suffered from depression after retirement. The loss to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was a massive blow to the Mancunian who had been in his prime prior to the fights.
“I was all over the place after losing to Pacquiao in 2 rounds. I’ve always been a proud fighter and to lose in the manner that I did was embarrassing. It knocked me for six” admitted the hitman.
There was no secret in the fact that Hatton was on a downward spiral as a love for boxing and competition had been replaced by the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Suicidal thoughts constantly ran through his head and all his personal achievements and glory was beginning to be tarnished by his depression. Hatton, with the support of his family was able to turn his life back around. Admitting himself into rehab and receiving treatment for his depression was his greatest victory in his career. Now the Mancunian is a successful promoter and a trainer for rising boxer Adam Little, his passion for boxing has flourished once again and his long time service to boxing continues.
Hatton was not alone. Legend Oscar De La Hoya would feel the effects of depression during his career. Similar to Hatton, drugs and alcohol would dominate his life after feeling the pressures of being one of the greatest fighters to have fought in the sport. At the time De La Hoya confessed “This is the biggest fight of my life, I could put all my opponents in one ring and battle all of them, but this monster is going to be the toughest fight of my life.” His brave admission highlights that fact that depression does not discriminate as it could affect anybody at anytime. The ‘Golden Boy’ went to a rehabilitation centre and has successfully defeated depression. Womanising, drugs and alcohol could have all culminated to bring the ultimate downfall of a champion but through perseverance and support he managed turn his life back around to run a one of the most successful promotion firm, something that would never have been achieved by bottling up the condition inside.
Both Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya went on their own accord to receive help. Like many boxers rehabilitation in a specific centre helped them to overcome the illness and continue to live their lives. However there is controversy in the amount of help that boxing organisations give to the boxers to make them aware of depression. Speaking to some professional boxers the stark reminders of boxing and depression begin to surface.
“I don't think there's enough help for these kinds of things. We are well behind other sports when it comes to that.” admits British boxer Martin Murray.
When asked the question 'Is there enough help and advice for boxers who suffer from depression?' Some of the boxers replied by stating the harsh realities. British light middleweight champion Brian Rose responded by stating “No I don’t! Think there should be sports physiologists that boxers should be able to see if they are in a dark place.”
Both Martin Murray’s and Brian Roses answers are reminiscent of British lightweight John Murray who, in agreement writes “No not really it's a lonely sport and once you finished your left to get on with your life with no support.” This an severe reminder that there is not enough adequate support available by the boxing associations who spend millions each year to hold the fights we want to see but do not invest enough in supporting boxers who struggle to deal with retirement. Enough support has to be readily available for boxers to receive if they suffer from a variety of illnesses. Legendary Heavyweight George Foreman tweeted me clearly with the simple but powerful words “There is a lot left undone.” Foreman’s words would ring in my mind because a heavyweight champion who fought in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s stating that there is not enough help is a damming statement for the various boxing associations. Support groups are needed in boxing just like there is in soccer/football, basketball and cricket to advice sports men and women in how to treat depression successfully.
Even though there is not enough adequate support and help from the boxing world, help is available. If there is a boxer that is suffering from a form of depression help is at hand. Throughout the years many boxers have sunk into deep and mysterious places but many have taken it upon themselves to receive help from rehabilitation centres. Families and friends are great and priceless support in the fight against depression but the bottom line is that professional help is needed. With doctors and psychologists available any boxer can KO depression to great effects. If you know of anyone, not specifically a boxer but anyone suffering from depression the wisest thing to do is to get them to seek professional help. It could be the difference between life and death.