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Struggle Irish boxer Paddy Gallagher speaks out bravely about battle with depression

Champion boxer Paddy has opened up about his fight against depression after he vanished for a week following a horror car smash

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Paddy Gallagher was just 21 when he struck gold at the Commonwealth Games

Paddy Gallagher was just 21 when he struck gold at the Commonwealth Games

Paddy Gallagher was just 21 when he struck gold at the Commonwealth Games

Champion Belfast boxer Paddy Gallagher has spoken out bravely about his fight against depression after he vanished for a week following a horror car smash.

The popular 32-year-old west Belfast fighter says he wants to speak about his battle with mental illness in the hope it helps others.

The Commonwealth gold medallist from 2010 admits it's been a struggle coming to terms with - something he's still reluctant to admit.

But with his new gym business about to open and a job promoting boxing to schoolkids, 'The Pat-Man' is coming around to seeing that he still has a career in boxing.

In an honest interview, Paddy reveals he's lucky to be alive after crashing his car in a storm in August and how he left the scene in a panic - but thanks his instinctive boxing skills for saving him from serious injury.

"It was pitch black and pouring with rain and I just lost control of the car and crashed into a telegraph pole," explains Paddy.

"I'm lucky to be alive. I can't believe I was actually able to walk away from it unscathed, but I think I have boxing to thank for that.

"When I went off the road, I put my hands up to my head like I would in a fight. It was instinct but I'm sure it saved me from being seriously injured."

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Paddy with Rachel in Las  Vegas

Paddy with Rachel in Las Vegas

Paddy with Rachel in Las Vegas

 

Paddy has battled with his mental health for years, long before he had to face a boxer's ultimate demon - accepting his fighting days are over.

But things were exacerbated by the way his last professional fight unfolded.

In August 2019, Paddy was fighting Chris Jenkins for the British and Commonwealth Welterweight titles. The Belfast man was getting on top, he'd just floored his opponent when the fight was stopped because of a cut to Jenkins' eye.

The referee deemed it to have been caused by a clash of heads despite most onlookers - including Paddy - believing it was caused by a fair dig from Gallagher's fist, which meant instead of winning by a Technical KO the fight went to the scorecards and he lost by a point.

"It was hard to take," says Paddy. "To be beaten by a point when I should have won by TKO fair and square was difficult to accept.

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"If it had gone my way it could have opened up a path to European titles and, who knows, maybe even a world title if I was lucky.

"I'm a box-office-type of fighter. The fans love my style because I just give everything.

"I always say my style might not be head friendly, but it's certainly fan friendly so if I'd got the result I deserved from the Jenkins fight things could have been much different.

"Instead, it looks like it's probably my last fight. There were some dark days after that fight.

"I just want to tell people if they need help they should not feel scared to ask for it.

"I had always said when I was younger that I'd retire from boxing when I was 30 but I just didn't think it would come this fast.

"I won the Commonwealth gold medal when I was just 21 and I thought 30 was miles away. Now I'm going to be 33 in April.

"When you're gone, you're gone. At 21 I had such expectations and when they don't come true then it messes you up.

"I don't feel I got out of boxing what I deserved to, or at least what I should have got out of it."

Paddy remains one of the most popular and genuine guys in boxing. He tells things as they are, often at 100mph.

"I speak and I live my life like I box - everything is full tilt.

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Paddy with gold medal at Commonwealth Games

Paddy with gold medal at Commonwealth Games

Paddy with gold medal at Commonwealth Games

 

"I've battled depression and it's a constant battle which I'll always have, but at the minute I'm doing well," he explains.

"In 2019 I lost my stepfather suddenly who had been a massive part of my life, and because I was training for a big fight at the time I didn't get to properly grieve for him.

"There's always things to have to deal with in life.

"After my last fight I lost my way, so to speak. I'd say to any young fella struggling with their mental health it's OK to go and speak to someone."

Paddy is now opening his new gym The Lab Fitness which is right beside the Gleann Amateur Boxing Club from which he remains a member.

"It's hard because I see Lewis Crocker and Owen O'Neill boxing every day and it's like being a drug addict surrounded by drugs. I just want to be in there competing like them.

"I'm not big-headed or anything but I have to admit I miss the praise and the attention from boxing. It's hard to deal with the loss of boxing but I'm coming to terms with it now, I think.

"I'm realising I still have a lot to offer boxing and I still have a career in the sport - it just won't be in the ring competitively.

"I'm accepting I could be of help to the young lads coming through the club. I made plenty of mistakes and made plenty of bad decisions and I'll be here to talk to any of them if they want some advice."

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Paddy Gallagher

Paddy Gallagher

Paddy Gallagher

 

Paddy is among a number of local boxers, including Brendan Irvine, who work part time for Belfast City Council and their community boxing programme.

"We go round schools and try to identify kids who might have the skills to get into boxing," says Paddy. "I really enjoy it but it can be hard work because there's 200 kids sometimes. We teach them a few things, nothing too technical, and then if they enjoy it we tell them which boxing clubs are near where they live.

"My new gym is opening and so I'm feeling pretty positive about life at the minute.

"I have a brilliant partner and a young son and daughter.

"I think I've come though the other side. Rachel says to me that I'm not retired from boxing but I'm just changing my role and that's a great way of looking at it."

If you are experiencing distress or despair you can contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or the Samaritans on 0330 094 5717.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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