RISING mental health issues in boxing are becoming a huge problem that needs to be sorted out, according to local amateur boxing coaches.

Lee Whitehead, a coach at Bridgewater Amateur Boxing Club in Salford, has said that boxers at all levels are susceptible to depression, including those that have left the sport behind.

Whitehead said: “Mental health issue is a major problem even with ex-boxers. When your adulation is gone and your spotlight is gone, you’ve then got to come down.”

Boxing promoter Frank Warren has said that a programme needs to be put in place both for elite and amateur boxers, and Whitehead echoes the fact that mental health can affect anyone.

“In the lower echelons in boxing, they’re the ones taking poundings and beatings for little reward.

“The guys at the top –  Ricky Hatton has been in the public eye for his depression, Michael Gomez ended up with no money at all – it’s a major issue all around the world.”

Image: pixabay.com
Image: pixabay.com

Whitehead has previously suffered with mental health issues himself, and urged the need for more support to be given to boxers at all levels.

He said: “Something must be done about it, from grassroots through to amateur boxing – this fund is important as people aren’t in a good place when they finish boxing. 

Mental health has hit the headlines frequently in elite boxing over recent weeks, with former heavyweight champion Barry McGuigan commenting that the leading boxing authorities should fund a new foundation to help elite fighters suffering with mental health issues.

McGuigan, 55, wants the new boxing body to help with funding for treatments when required, and said: “It should happen sooner rather than later because we don’t want a fatality on our hands.”

His comments come in light of the situation facing British world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who is the latest boxer to admit to having mental health issues after withdrawing from his title rematch with Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko in October.

The Manchester boxer, who currently holds both the WBA and WBO titles in his division, is in danger of having the latter belt stripped unless he responds to the WBO chairman in the next ten days, explaining why his title should not be vacated as a result of “inactivity, breach of contract and performance enhancing drugs.

Fury announced his retirement during the week on Twitter, claiming that boxing was the “saddest thing” he had ever taken part in, before announcing this tweet later the same day:

Speaking about Fury’s situation, McGuigan said the sport has become blind to its most elite athletes suffering from mental health issues, expressing his concerns for the British champion.

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