'Boxing took me from borstal to belt-winner', says former world champ Frank Bruno as he launches new charity in Northampton
Sporting legend Frank Bruno has revealed how boxing was a "therapy" for him after launching a new charity here in Northampton.
More than 100 people packed into Far Cotton Boxing Club in Towcester Road, to get a glimpse of the former WBC champion, as he launched a new project he hopes to have running at the club from May.
The Frank Bruno Foundation will, providing it can attract funding, support people with mental health conditions, or young people with difficult behavioural problems through "non-contact" boxing sessions at the Far Cotton Club.
The venture is a joint effort between the national treasure and the former headteacher of the Gateway School in Towcester, David Lloyd. The pair met in 2012, when Mr Bruno attended the school to give counselling sessions to some of the youngsters.
Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo, the affable hero - whose own battle with depression has been highly publicised - said setting up his own charity has been an ambition for many years.
He said: "It has been an ambition right from when I retired, to be honest.
"I met Dave and I went to his school to do some counselling sessions. Back then we started talking about boxing and the Frank Bruno Foundation."
But the former heavyweight champion is now hoping the foundation can attract funding to get off the ground.
He said: "It's a very, very good - a lot of kids are going through a lot of problems, you know what I mean?
"This is about connecting with people."
Mr Bruno has been open about his battle with bipolar disorder since leaving sport and said part of his reason for setting up the charity was because boxing became a "therapy" for him in younger life and career.
The youngest of six siblings went to a "borstal" aged 12 - but taking up boxing gave him discipline.
"Boxing was a good therapy for me," he said. "I started very young, when I was eight.
"It got me going down a good road, you know?
"Any sport, it requires concentration and determination.
"If you can install that in them young, it gives them the skills growing up."
Mr Bruno says he also wants to take an active role in the non-contact boxing sessions at Far Cotton, rather than simply lending his name to the foundation.
Chairman and co-founder David Lloyd hopes the foundation will expand to more venues. The non-contact sessions will involve all the training drills involved in boxing, including on the punching bags, but there will be no bouts.
Though it is yet to receive charitable status, he is confident that the venture will attract lottery and Government funding.
"This is our first one," he said. "But over a period of three-to-five years we want to open out across the country if we can.
"Through the medium of non-contact boxing we want to help people recovering from mental ill health, people with special educational needs. It will help to build their self-confidence and their discipline."