BOXING: How former champion boxer Tommy Martin is showing more courage than ever as he faces his biggest battle in retirement

Tommy Martin with the WBA Continental title, which he won in September, 2015. Picture: LAWRENCE LUST

Tommy Martin with the WBA Continental title, which he won in September, 2015. Picture: LAWRENCE LUSTIG - Credit: Archant

Tommy Martin was the man who had it all. The youngest English champion ever, a regular fixture on televised shows, the adulation of an army of supporters, and a skill-set which looked to be set to take him to the very top.

But then it was gone - his chosen career snatched away after just 14 fights and at just 21 years of age.

The fact it was brought to a painfully premature conclusion in a headline fight on Sky TV shows the regard in which he was held.

At first Martin tried to shrug off the bleed on the brain suffered in a Commonwealth title war against the vastly older and more experienced John Wayne Hibbert - his only defeat, but one in which he earned many admirers - on January 30, 2016.

Accepting his fate has not been easy. Martin has fought depression in the eight months since his retirement was announced last October, but has bravely chosen to speak about the most difficult time of his life.

“I never hid or dodged anything as a boxer, and I’m not going to do that now either,” stated Martin.

“The way I get over things is to talk about them. It’s actually good to be able to chat and let people know what I’ve been going through.

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“I got used to the limelight. I got used to pleasing everyone and winning titles. I knew I was going to have a good career, but then it was gone.”

Martin was taken to hospital in the immediate aftermath of that Hibbert fight at the Copper Box Arena, in London.

He was released the next day and soon returned to the gym, but that’s when the full extent of the problems came to light.

It was a situation which eventually led to the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) withdrawing his licence.

“As there was nothing wrong with me on the outside, I didn’t think there was a problem on the inside,” added Martin.

“The first time I went back to the gym after the Hibbert fight, I feinted after throwing a couple of punches.

“My trainer, Barry Smith, called an ambulance straight away, but I still felt sure it was everyone around me who was over-reacting.

“Even when the doctors told me it was the end of the road as a boxer, I still thought ‘yeah, whatever, I’ll be fine....’

“But the longer I was in hospital, the more I knew things weren’t good.

“Rumours got out, the BBBoC found out about the situation and as soon I heard from them that my licence was being taken away, I broke down.”

The mental health of sports stars is currently a hot topic - justifiably so in the opinion of Martin.

He is now in a position to understand the often lonely and silent battle many face on the inside.

It’s one that cannot be fully comprehended by those who have never suffered in such a way.

“It’s something that often tends to be kept under wraps,” he continued. “It’s not until you get caught up in a tough situation, as I’ve been in the past year, that you realise how troubled people can be.

“They say the toughest fight for a boxer only starts after he has finished fighting, and I’d certainly agree with that.

“It’s been hard to get back on my feet after being diagnosed with depression. I’ve not been a great person to be around, and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been very low at times.

“My close family and friends could not have been more supportive. I owe them a lot.

“I’m not saying I’m over my depression by any means, but I feel I’m making good progress.

“I’d like to help others in the future, but right now I still have to make sure I win my own battle.”

Martin has been supported by the MTK Marbella organisation since his retirement.

He often prepared for fights with stints at their gym in Spain, and now looks after their boxers at shows.

He also remains hugely grateful to main sponsors Junction 17 for their generous backing and support.