A TYSON Fury fan who tried to kill himself but was “saved” after being inspired by the boxer’s battle against depression is following in his hero’s footsteps by stepping into the ring for a charity boxing match.

Karl Jones turned to boxing after seeking help for the mental illness which had “robbed him of his character” and made him attempt to take his own life in August last year.

The 32 year old sign-maker revealed the sport has helped transform his life and is now what “keeps him going”.

Karl watched a video of Fury talking about depression and made the decision to start boxing again after quitting the sport he first took up as a 14 year old. He had to “force himself” to go to the initial training session, but later said it was the first time he had enjoyed himself in months.

The Northern Echo:

Karl, from Pensbury Street, Darlington, said depression had been creeping into his life for three years, but first realised something wasn’t right in June last year when he simply “stopped feeling like myself”.

He sought help from a mental health centre and began a course of anti-depressants, but before they had time to start working properly he made an attempt to take his own life.

However, Karl said he instantly regretted the decision and was able to save himself. Three months later, after treatment in hospital, he watched the interview with his boxing hero Fury, 30, in which the star talked about his own battle with depression.

Inspired by the video, Karl decided he needed to make a positive change to his life and signed up for an Ultra White Collar Boxing event.

Participants are given the opportunity to take part eight weeks of free professional boxing training before a showcase event in front of hundreds of spectators.

Those taking part are asked to sell ten tickets for the show and raise at least £50 for Cancer Research UK.

So far Ultra Events – the company behind the event – has raised a staggering £17m for Cancer Research UK. In Darlington alone people have raised more than £65,000 for the charity by taking part in boxing events organised by Ultra.

Karl said: “I didn’t want to die, it was the pain and suffering inside that I wanted to get rid of.

“I lived alone, which didn’t help. It had been creeping up on me for years, but in June last year I knew something was wrong.

“I went to hospital, and I told them I didn’t want life anymore. I had lost my character, I didn’t feel like myself.

“At the time, I didn’t believe in depression. Now, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s a cancer to the mind, and it takes lives.

“I’d self harm, I’d be at work and I’d start crying for no reason.”

Now, Karl plans to walk into the ring to the song Freed From Desire by Gala, not just because he loves the song, but because it is the same as entrance music used by Fury, who he feels a connection to.

Karl’s training in a group of 40 for two two-hour sessions per week at Hanuman gym in Downton, near Darlington. He said: “Tyson Fury is my number one favourite boxer, and it feels like I’m living the same life as him.

“He was world champion, but initially when he got back into boxing, it was his last fight.

“He was the exact same as me – leaving boxing, and later returning to it. I’m not a famous champion boxer, but it’s the same story.”

Fury became a world champion boxer in 2015, but then stopped fighting as he battled mental illness, before returning to boxing three years later in June 2018.

Karl said: “It was down to him that I got back into boxing. I had just started watching it again, and his fight against Deontay Wilder was the first I watched.

“At the end, he did a post-fight interview and he talked about mental health.

“He said ‘if you’re down, reach out, talk to people’. He said ‘if I can do it, you can do it’.

“It was that which made me go back into boxing, and I wish I could thank him personally.”

“Boxing has helped me a lot. If I hadn’t liked Tyson as a boxer, if he hadn’t gone back to fighting and then said all of that about mental health, I think I would be gone.

“It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed myself in months. I have a mental health review every four weeks with my GP, and I’ve told them I’m concentrating on boxing, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.

“I absolutely love it.”

Karl will compete in three two-minute rounds in front of an audience of hundreds at The Dolphin Centre, in Darlington, on March 30.

And the person he really wants to come and watch him is his mother, care assistant Tracey High, 56.

He added: “She donated to my fundraising page, and she wrote ‘I’m proud of you’. That really meant a lot to me.”

Jon Leonard, who runs Ultra Events, said: “I am full of admiration for Karl. It is so brave for him to tell his story.

“I believe Karl’s courage will now inspire others to make a positive change to their lives.

“Depression is a terrible illness and as Karl rightly points out it takes lives.

“We have so many people come to us who are suffering from depression and in many cases it is remarkable the change which we witness in many of them.

“I wish all the best to Karl on the night of his bout – he’s an inspiration to all of us.”

Ultra Events gives people the chance to take centre stage and raise money for Cancer Research UK. It also offers ballroom dancing, mixed martial arts, darts and comedy.