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Mental Health Month: Tough Men Talk

Sporting hero of the month has to go to Tyson Fury, the Gypsy King. There’s no doubt as to why he’s got such a huge following or that he’s a modern day legend within the boxing world, and I guess beyond it. Tyson has followed in the path of his father (who I’ve met) and also his grandfather. Fighting is in their blood, one way or another.

John Fury—Tyson’s father—was a boxer who went professional in bare knuckle fighting, where in Galloway it was traditional to enter the ring. He fought on the street too and, unfortunately inflicted serious damage to someone’s eye for which he served four years in prison. Upon his release, John reformed and has been promoter and spokesman for his son. He’s campaigned on Tyson’s behalf for each fight which has uplifted media presence. He is a force to be reckoned with as an advocate for his son which I commend him for. It was, however, how he spoke on other matters that captured my attention and made this man memorable for me.

John Fury (center) with David Last (left) and Donna Siggers (right)
at a Q&A Event organised by Steve Wraith


Given October is mental health month, I’d like that to be my focus. Tyson is bipolar, a subject he’s discussed with Frank Bruno who also suffers from the same disorder. Boxing has, according to both men, kept a certain balance within their lives through structure and stability. Tyson claims he’s felt unwell all his life, that he didn’t want to live and that he considered his anxiety normal and that it was just part of life. It wasn’t until his bipolar diagnosis in 2017 that acceptance of his condition and the reasons behind his symptoms could be explained.

Embracing his mental health has gained Tyson a huge following, and his dad is right there to support him.

I met John at a speaking event, organised by our friend Steve Wraith, where he talked with frankness of another side to family life other than boxing—that of mental health. To hear a father with John's background speak of his son's troubles and relate to his experiences was humbling--that Tyson's health dipped so low before help was sought, heartbreaking. 

Mental health knows no boundaries. In learning some very personal facts about Tyson, to know this fighting machine drunk himself to sleep in bars and overate on burgers because he couldn't help himself was eyeopening when he was entering the ring to fight a few days later. That he has now turned his life around, with the help of professionals and, ultimately his family, is a story worth sharing.

Openness is vital in the educational process and I believe that when the hard men of the boxing world and other such sports, industries etc start opening up to discuss their mental health it truly starts to make a huge difference.

If you get the chance to hear John Fury speak, please take it!

by Donna Siggers

Welterweight Champion: John H Stracey

John H Stracey is a former boxer who trained at the notorious Recton Boxing Club in London. A World Champion, he’s won the British, European and World Welterweight Championships. I'm an avid supporter of boxing and the positives it provides with regards to attitude, aptitude and discipline but also fully aware of how drastically wrong things can go in the sport—and in any sport. I met John last week where I enjoyed listening to his stories of victory, of his youth and how he got into boxing. Unbeknown to John, my attack in twenty-fourteen (by someone I worked with [a client/patient]) acted out Muhammad Alli’s ‘moves’ on me and those actions changed my life.

Donna Siggers with John H Stracey


John won five championships by the age of eighteen and he accomplished an unbeaten run of twenty-eight fights in three years before turning professional. Becoming the undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World in Mexico City in 1975 (I don't recall this as I would have been three) was the highlight of John’s career. You can visibly see the pride on his face  when he shows you his belt, despite the years that have passed. Boxing is in John’s blood.

At just eleven (I believe) his father was frustrated at the amount of fights his young son was getting into, so took him to the famous club, which was local to their East End home. Recton has produced more than its share of champions, John included—and he’d brush shoulders with the Kray twins while he was training here. That’s a story I will leave for you to hear from the man himself! Growing up, John was friends with the Kray’s nephew, so has plenty of East End stories from his teens that will captivate anyone interested in the history of that era.

Despite having hung up his gloves John continues his association with boxing through charity work. For those of you who’ve seen the original film “The Krays”, John trained the Kemp brothers to box and choreographed those scenes. He was also in the ring for the film—the one to get ‘knocked out’ on the big screen... [in John’s words] “by Spandau Ballet”. He certainly added authenticity to these scenes and listening to him speak answered many questions I’d had as to how they’d pulled this off so well.

John is a fantastic after dinner speaker, tours with various boxing names and the occasional ex villain. It was the latter—with Eddie Richardson—that I heard him speak and enjoyed the stories he shared. The man can sing too and entertained us for a time with a few songs.

by Donna Siggers

Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife!

UPDATED January 2024

The Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife campaign began in October 2022. Ben Spann built upon foundations for what turned out to be the fastest growing knife campaign group in the UK. Gaining support from members, and many reformed high-profile ex criminals, willing to get the message out there; people like Terry Ellis (who was my first ever feature on the Soul2ink blog), Vinny Bradish and Chris Lambrianou who all created a strong message that they claimed was here to stay.


Ben stated, “we are the group that represents the people: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles but most of all every child in the U.K. Our campaign values are simple Prevent, Rehabilitate and Educate.”

Fully committed to the ongoing work that’s involved, the team are aware how much work is required to get them to where they want to be. Ben conveys that with “the support from every parent and grandparent to give us the voice we need, they will be able to stand up for what is right, that our future generations shouldn’t feel the need to have to carry a blade as a necessity like a phone or watch.” Knife crime effects every part of our country and if you’re blinded to that, please take a long, hard look at your community. Unfortunately, it’s become part of culture. It’s a known fact that if you are carrying there’s a greater likelihood of you using rather than not if the opportunity arises—if you carry consider leaving your blade behind.

Ben speaks for the group, Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife when he says that they “do not tolerate our kids being groomed into gangs, nor will they tolerate them being the victims or the perpetrators of knife crime. Enough is enough. We are doing great things but as you can imagine there is no overnight fix.” He also stated that working within communities is one of the important aspects of what they are about and it’s been a great pleasure to have had a close association with Leamington Amateur Boxing Club, ran by Ollie O’Neil, who are doing fantastic work with their youth, as are Aces Boxing Club, ran by Harmi Singh. Now in the process of becoming the proud [main] sponsors of Coventry City Supporter’s Club, the distinctive logo for the group will soon be displayed on their new kits.

Acutely aware that not all youth are sport minded the group have also been working closely with Hills FM, a Coventry based radio station and also with the homeless and youth services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services within the area.

As a group, Ben and his team, are looking to carry out educational talks in schools and youth facilities all over the UK, once the Covid-19 situation allows. In the meantime, they will be seeking ways in which our future generations can be occupied, since funding for youth facilities has been cut year upon year. Ben ensures us that their campaign is “enrolling new schemes on a weekly basis as well as being affiliated with many sport facilities locally and across the UK.”

He goes on the say “Thanks for the support of our members and we look forward to all new members who have the same views on this subject.”

by Donna Siggers
First published October 2020
Updated 19 January 2023