Former world heavyweight champion and national treasure Frank Bruno was given a hero’s welcome as he took to the stage at a Norwich hotel.

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Bruno’s mission is to help others deliver a knock-out blow to mental health issues.

The much-loved boxer, who realised his world title ambition in 1995 when he beat Oliver McCall at Wembley, has faced a long battle against bipolar disorder and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2003.

But Bruno is coming to terms with his condition – and attended the Smile Ball at the De Vere Dunston Hall Hotel, near Norwich, in aid of Norwich Mind, a mental health charity, to help give others the confidence to do the same.

Bruno this year appeared in front of millions as a guest on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories show on ITV1, but it was TV presenter Trisha Goddard with whom he went toe-to-toe at the start of Saturday’s event.

, Chief executive of Norwich Mind Peter Gianfrancesco right, said: “Frank was very well received – he got a standing ovation when he came up on the stage with Trisha.

“She was able to interview Frank about his experience in a very sensitive way; it’s not the easiest thing in the world to talk about.

“Frank told the audience about some of the challenges he’s had with his mental health and what he does to stay on top of his condition.

“His message was to fight back, don’t give up and do your best to inspire others. I think that was a really strong message on the night that Trisha and Frank got across that mental health issues affect everyone – it doesn’t matter how successful, how famous, or how much money you have.”

He added: “We knew Frank was keen to support mental health issues and one of the things he spoke about on the night was how this experience has changed him, and now his focus in his life is about enjoying it and looking after himself. I think that was a really important message – we don’t have to be the same person afterwards that we were before.”

Mr Gianfrancesco said he was very grateful to the pair of them for supporting the charity by attending the event.

He said: “Trisha supports everything that we do, she’s our patron, but it was a real bonus to be able to get Frank along as well.

“The two of them had a really good chemistry on the stage and I think that added a lot to the evening.

“Frank stayed a long, long time. He was there at 6pm and left just after 10pm. He must have posed for hundreds of photos with people.

“He really participated fully in the night.”

The Bruno and Trisha interview was just part of the evening which was aimed at raising awareness about the issue of mental health and what Mind does in the city as well as fundraising for the charity.

Mr Gianfrancesco said the night, which also included a meal, drink reception prior to the ball, plus Motown and soul music from Norwich-based singer Dominic Uppiah, was a success and hoped to repeat it with something similar in the future.

He said: “It was a good night out. I think we’re going to give some thought to doing something again next year and hope a lot of the people who joined us this year will join us again next time.”

Log onto www.norwichmind.org.uk to find out more about the charity.

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