The Monday LockDown

Mental Health Awareness

Hello readers, you will note that the regular Monday LunchBox has been temporarily retitled the ‘LockDown’ given the unfamiliar and difficult times we continue to find ourselves in.

We are all largely aware of the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives, those sadly affected directly by losses in their families, and of far lesser importance the impact on the sporting calendar. The current situation can have a major impact and in extreme cases devastating effect on the mental health and wellbeing across all sectors of society. Boxers and the boxing fraternity are not spared in this regard.

Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and it is with some irony that the Mental Health minute shared with the country this morning at 11am over television, radio and other media outlets was opened by IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. He was later followed by Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge and other notable spokespeople.

The irony is that in a sport for which one of the objectives is to seperate ones senses from the ability to continue to compete, either by physical contact or mental degradation, that it should be a boxer who opened this minute of consideration. This shows the power of boxing to capture the hearts and minds of the general public, and in doing so, develop individuals who represent all that is good in sport. For the want of re-stating a much overused cliché – the ability to create ‘role models’. Anthony Joshua is considered this by a lot of the sporting population, who across the gyms and training centres of the country they look to follow, support and maybe one day emulate.

Mental health, for obvious reasons has always been an issue in boxing. WBC world heavyweight champion’s Frank Bruno and Tyson Fury have literally ‘moved mountains’ in recent years in raising awareness and public consciousness on the issue via the platform of being elite professional boxers and from their own painful experiences. Check out any of their autobiographies which focus considerably on their personal challenges outside the ring.

In boxing, setting aside the clear challenge and results of physical combat, both at a repetitive and prolonged level, there are the well documented cases and impacts of the highs and lows of the sport. Boxing can take a fighter from poverty and relative obscurity to the highest of highs in any sport. A highly successful boxer can earn millions, meet kings, queens and presidents and receive the adulation of nations. However, the higher the rise, inevitably the bigger the potential to fall. Boxing is littered with elite fighters who subsequently fell on hard times. Californian Bobby Chacon, three weight world champion Wilfredo Gomez to name but two.

But; for every Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Lennox Lewis there are thousands who forever ply their trade earning small purses in small halls and never attain the heights. It is highly likely that these are the ones who are suffering most in the current pandemic. The journeyman fighter who’s sole earning potential is a fight a month in a small hall, the kid who’s just come off the streets and in an attempt to find life focus has found the refuge of the local gym, the ex-boxer who’s now struggling to make ends meet. These are the people in our sport who we should be thinking about. Registered charities such as Ringside Rest and Care exist not just by choice, but by necessity. And, in these difficult times need our support.

Then, there are those on the periphery of the sport – in the so called service industry – the promotional teams, those that go up and down the country setting up rings, supporting press conferences and media events , selling tickets. The impact on the sport is considerable and in these difficult times are suffering. The open ended termination of social distancing and lack of a definite timetable could be potentially irreversible for many in the business.

So; in this time of uncertainty just look around you and support those who may be in need; maybe just a call or text or a bit of face time. Mental health is now a recognised modern disease challenging all in society, and potentially increased by the temporary loss of a high profile sport to all those participants and observers. Let us consider that early this week as a starter.

Keep healthy all and keep punching.

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