Ul­ti­mate be­trayal that de­stroyed me

DAY ONE OF OUR SERIALISATION OF BRUNO’S HEART-REND­ING NEW BOOK

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Front Page - BY FRANK BRUNO

BOX­ING leg­end Frank Bruno to­day re­veals the two dev­as­tat­ing blows that al­most pushed him over the edge in his bat­tle with bipo­lar dis­or­der.

In a shock­ing crime that the for­mer world heavy­weight cham­pion calls “the ul­ti­mate be­trayal”, some­one close to him stole more than £300,000 of his sav­ings while he was locked in a se­cure psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal. Then he was nearly blinded in a vi­cious, un­pro­voked street at­tack.

The dam­age caused, re­vealed in his new book Let Me Be Frank, se­ri­alised ex­clu­sively in the Mir­ror, set off a chain of events that left the 54-year-old na­tional trea­sure locked in the tough­est fight of his life... with his mind. Be­ing heavy­weight cham­pion of the world taught me a lot, but it made me re­alise one thing above all – that ev­ery­thing you fight for, ev­ery­thing you dream of, ev­ery­thing you build up, can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. Let your guard slip, then boom, you are out.

It hap­pened to me on March 16, 1996, when Mike Tyson turned out the lights on my box­ing ca­reer. Then it hap­pened to my hap­pi­ness, health and lib­erty too.

I know my con­di­tion in­side out now. Bet­ter than any op­po­nent I faced in the ring. Peo­ple al­ways ask me: “How does it make you feel?”

I al­ways sigh. I’m not be­ing dif­fi­cult. But I will try to ex­plain.

When my ill­ness takes hold the world swings from high to low. I can see the change com­ing but I can’t stop it. It is like a force of na­ture – a hay­maker of a right hook that rocks me from side to side.

Have you ever been caught out­side in a hor­ren­dous storm and started pan­ick­ing that the strength of the wind might knock you off your feet? When my bipo­lar strikes it feels as if that wind is con­stantly push­ing me back.

My world is cov­ered by a fog. Lit­tle of what is go­ing on around me mat­ters. Light or dark. Day or night. Sum­mer or win­ter. The world I see will be the same shade of grey.

The hard­est thing is not know­ing when my con­di­tion will hit or how long it will stick around.

Box­ing was straight­for­ward. I trained. I pre­pared. I stepped in the ring. When I saw a punch com­ing I moved, quickly, or I de­fended my­self. Then, bang, I made sure I knocked out my op­po­nent be­fore he had the chance to reload.

My bipo­lar, though, ap­pears from the shad­ows and it is im­pos­si­ble to de­fend your­self against a punch you can’t see. I face it and I fight it. But even when I beat the crap out of it, I know deep down it may come back.

That’s what hap­pened in 2003 when I was sec­tioned for the first time. It came af­ter the most dis­tress­ing pe­riod of my life. My mar­riage had bro­ken down and my world col­lapsed. My wife Laura and my three kids moved out and sud­denly I was alone.

I was try­ing, and fail­ing badly, to cope with re­tire­ment from the ring.

Then in 2002 my for­mer trainer Ge­orge Fran­cis took his life. That was the fi­nal blow.

With­out my fam­ily around me, with my ca­reer over and my cor­ner­man gone, my men­tal health suf­fered. When they took me to Good­mayes Hos­pi­tal in Rom­ford on Septem­ber 22, 2003, I was kick­ing and scream­ing.

The treat­ment I re­ceived res­cued me. When I got out six weeks later I thought I’d come through the tough­est bat­tle of my life.

I was called “Bonkers Bruno” on the front of The Sun. Overnight my world changed. Sud­denly Frank Bruno, sport­ing hero, was now Frank Bruno, the man with a men­tal health prob­lem. Then came the news of the ul­ti­mate be­trayal. A few weeks af­ter I got out my man­age­ment team were ask­ing a lot of ques­tions about money. My ac­coun­tants were freak­ing out at the amount of cash fly­ing out of my ac­count. The phone would ring and I’d be asked: “Frank, what’s go­ing on? What are you buy­ing?”

I ex­plained that I was barely go­ing out­side the front door. I told them all I was fo­cused on was get­ting bet­ter. I was ter­ri­fied peo­ple wouldn’t be­lieve me and the doc­tors would cart me back to hos­pi­tal. So if I wasn’t spend­ing the cash, then who was mug­ging me off ?

I pleaded with my ac­coun­tants to check it out. That’s when things took a sin­is­ter turn. When the bank man­ager started to fol­low the money leav­ing my ac­count, it all be­came clear. I was called in for a meet­ing and pre­sented with the ev­i­dence – some­one close to me had set up a sys­tem to take money from my ac­count month af­ter month.

I could hardly get my head around what they were say­ing. When I was mar­ried my wife Laura al­ways dealt with the fi­nances. So af­ter we got di­vorced I’d al­lowed some­one else to have ac­cess to my money and help me man­age things.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. This be­trayal started when I was sick and help­less, forcibly locked up, and went on for a long time af­ter­wards. When I was on my knees this per­son who was sup­posed to be help­ing me had de­cided to take my money.

I can’t tell you who it is. They know who they are and how heart­bro­ken I am. I know there will be a guess­ing game now as to who it is. But I don’t care. To move for­ward I need to be open about my past.

We no longer talk to one an­other and I doubt we will again. The per­son sent me a let­ter ad­mit­ting what they did, try­ing to make peace. But I’m not able to. I could have called in the po­lice. But

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