Sheffield boxing champ who overcame heart surgery shows true class with incredible gesture
Sheffield boxer Tommy Frank famously overcame heart surgery to become an international champion.
Now the Intake fighter has shown his class, just weeks after claiming the IBO Intercontinental flyweight title, by answering the call to help a teenager from his home city who is recovering from an almost identical operation.
Oliver Brown is a big boxing fan but the 16-year-old from Norton feared his dreams of one day turning professional would be dashed after learning he had to go under the knife to repair the hole in the heart with which he was born.
When his dad Simon discovered Tommy had an almost identical operation 21 years ago, aged just five, he reached out hoping for some words of inspiration to give Oliver a much-needed lift.
Simon was blown away when Tommy invited Oliver – who successfully underwent surgery at Leeds General Infirmary three weeks ago – to meet him at Sheffield Boxing Centre, on Burton Road, where he trains under the watchful eye of Glyn Rhodes.
Tommy gave Oliver and his dad a tour of the gym on Thursday, December 12, and let Oliver hold his belts before the pair posed together showing off their scars.
For Oliver, who is recovering well from the operation to fix his ventricular septal defect (VSD), to give the condition its full name, and is due to begin an engineering apprenticeship next year, it was an experience he will never forget.
“It’s pretty inspiring to know Tommy’s been through exactly what I have because if he can go on to achieve what he has it shows anything’s possible,” he said.
“I’ve always been into boxing from a young age but when I found out I had to have my operation I thought maybe it’s not for me.
“Meeting Tommy has given me the belief I needed and made me think about pursuing a boxing career in future.
“I’ve been asking the doctors when I can get back to boxing and they’ve said not just yet but maybe in three months.”
Tommy, who is an ambassador for the charity Heart Research UK, said it was a ‘big privilege’ to meet Oliver and they enjoyed a ‘great afternoon’ together.
“Hopefully he can one day follow in my footsteps if he wants to get into boxing or any other sport,” he added.
“Since I had my operation I’ve always wanted to be a bit of a role model for other children with heart problems to show it doesn’t have to stop them pursuing their dreams.
“Oliver and I are living proof of how good surgeons are these days and I’d just like to give credit to the team at Leeds General Infirmary.”
As well as meeting Tommy, Oliver has received messages of encouragement from other boxing stars like Johnny Nelson, Kell Brook and Anthony Crolla.
Simon praised Tommy’s ‘lovely’ gesture and heralded the support his son has received from the wider boxing community.
“Oliver had been a bit down but meeting Tommy and hearing from all the other boxers has picked him up quite a bit and he’s doing really well now,” he added.