The Scottish Mail on Sunday

She’s a knock­out! Bruno’s de­light on lit­tle girl’s big day

It’s the mo­ment Frank’s daugh­ter feared she might never ex­pe­ri­ence – her fa­ther well enough to walk her down the aisle

- by Ian Gal­lagher

IT IS a bit­ter­sweet act that of­ten comes tinged with re­gret.

But as he gave away his daugh­ter Rachel in mar­riage yes­ter­day, Frank Bruno felt only pride. The pride that any man would feel walk­ing a daugh­ter down the aisle, but also pride in him­self for the way he has fought men­tal ill­ness.

Be­cause not so long ago there were con­cerns he would never see the day.

Rachel, 30, a per­sonal trainer, ex­plained: ‘When Dad wasn’t well I feared it might not hap­pen. But I am so proud of how he has turned things around. To marry the love of my life with my dad at my side is all I could ever have asked for.’

In a joint in­ter­view be­fore the wed­ding at Brent­wood Cathe­dral in Es­sex, Frank and Rachel re­flected on the troubled times be­hind them and their op­ti­mism for the fu­ture.

When Frank, now 55, be­came heavy­weight cham­pion of the world in 1995, Rachel was only nine, and was pic­tured on news­pa­per front pages show­ing off his glit­ter­ing ti­tle belt. She told him at the time: ‘You’re the cham­pion, Daddy – I knew you would do it for me.’

Since his re­tire­ment from box­ing a year later, Frank has been be­set with bipo­lar dis­or­der, an ill­ness he has, at times, fought pub­licly and which, at its worst point five years ago, saw him sec­tioned un­der the Men­tal Health Act.

But these days, hav­ing thrown him­self into work help­ing oth­ers with sim­i­lar ill­nesses, he feels bet­ter than he has done for years.

And though per­haps more solemn now, some of his sparkle has re­turned. ‘Life’s good,’ he said.

‘There have been ups and downs in the past few years. But life is very, very good now.’

At times he booms with laugh­ter, just as he did in the old days. He po­litely or­ders a salad in a voice that could just as eas­ily sum­mon thun­der. Of Rachel’s big day and his part in it, he said: ‘It will be emo­tional – she will al­ways be my lit­tle girl. I might have a few tears. It is a mo­ment ev­ery fa­ther who is lucky enough to have a daugh­ter dreams about so I am look­ing for­ward to it.

‘I’m ready. I have my speech sorted. Hope­fully peo­ple will laugh in the right places.’

He was first di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar in 1998 and has been sec­tioned three times. It was his el­dest daugh­ter Ni­cola, 34, who, in 2003, signed the form giv­ing doc­tors the au­tho­ri­sa­tion to con­fine him to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal.

Through sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion, he pulled him­self back from the brink. ‘I am so proud of how Dad is do­ing now,’ said Rachel. ‘Fight­ing a men­tal health con­di­tion isn’t easy. You have to live with it ev­ery day but this is the best he has ever been now. To go from how dark he was at cer­tain times is sim­ply in­cred­i­ble. He is a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­son.

‘Hav­ing to go to see Dad all those times in hos­pi­tal was ter­ri­ble and re­ally hard for me, Ni­cola and my brother Franklin. It was aw­ful. I re­mem­ber sit­ting in the car cry­ing af­ter­wards.’

Rachel, wear­ing a Suzanne Neville gown, was mar­ry­ing her child­hood sweet­heart, busi­ness­man Bobby Hardy, 33.

Rachel and Frank ar­rived at the Catholic cathe­dral in a Rolls-Royce Phan­tom. More than 180 fam­ily and friends were in­vited to the ser­vice. Ni­cola was maid of honour while Franklin, 22, was among 14 ush­ers.

Re­call­ing the cel­e­bra­tions fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s world ti­tle vic­tory over Amer­i­can Oliver McCall, Rachel said: ‘I re­mem­ber go­ing on the big red bus through Lon­don and wav­ing at ev­ery­one. Even now when I go out ev­ery­body has a story about my dad. It is over­whelm­ing.

‘The back­ground of where he came from and what he man­aged to do in­spires me and I am proud of what he con­tin­ues to do in the way he lives his life.’

Frank has launched the Frank Bruno Foun­da­tion which aims to use non­con­tact box­ing to help those with con­di­tions such as de­pres­sion and bipo­lar. It also pro­motes coun­selling and well­be­ing cour­ses as an al­ter­na­tive way of treat­ing men­tal ill­ness.

Rachel says the wed­ding couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time. ‘It is won­der­ful it co­in­cides with Dad be­ing so well. We are all on the up.’

There’ve been ups and downs but life is very, very good now

 ??  ?? SO PROUD: Bride Rachel with dad Frank yes­ter­day. above: Nine-year-old Rachel with Frank af­ter his world ti­tle win in 1995
SO PROUD: Bride Rachel with dad Frank yes­ter­day. above: Nine-year-old Rachel with Frank af­ter his world ti­tle win in 1995

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