Sheffield boxer inspired by Terri Harper and Tyson Fury becomes national champion after three-stone weight loss
An inspirational Sheffield boxer has dragged herself up off the canvas and turned her life around against the odds.
Bree Wright hit rock bottom in June and considered taking her own life.
Fast forward six months, however, and the 26-year-old from Beighton is barely recognisable in body and mind thanks to the sport of boxing.
Her turnaround was completed at the England Boxing National Senior Development Championships last weekend when she was crowned champion in the Under 69kg category, having shed more than three stone in weight since returning to Manor Boxing Academy after eight years out of the ring.
Now she has her eyes set on turning pro and following in the footsteps of best friend - and women’s boxing trailblazer – Terri Harper.
Bree, who began boxing aged 14, tells The Star: “I had eight years out, mainly through mental health. I was just down and depressed, lost. At the beginning of this year I thought I had had enough.
"I thought I was going to kill myself.
"I saw something about Tyson Fury, about him coming back from where he was, I thought I’m going to have to go to the gym and give it one more go and see what my purpose was in life.”
Bruising double sessions squeezed in between night shifts at food wholesalers Hopwells followed before she made a winning return in her comeback fight on 24 September.
Then it was time to test herself on the national stage.
“It was a long road because I had a lot of weight to lose,” adds Bree, who grew up on the Manor estate.
“I had to just keep slugging it out and eventually it started to drop off. But it was a lot of hard graft and I had some tough fights on the way back as well.”
Few comebacks are completed without setbacks, however, and Bree weathered more than her fair share of heavy blows along the way.
Her dad Vinny was stabbed in November, then suffered a stroke one week before Bree’s semi final bout earlier this month.
She has also had to cope with losing both her grandparents and two friends since last year, including 23-year-old Jordan Marples-Douglas, who was stabbed to death at the Woodthorpe home he shared with his girlfriend in March 2020.
“Everything that could have gone wrong for me went wrong,” she admits.
"Everything that would make me stop happened. Life is hard, I could have stopped doing it and got depressed again but I haven’t, I’ve kept going. That’s motivation to anyone.”
Bree paid tribute to Sheffield United fan Jordan at the National Championships final in London by posing for a photo with a personalised Blades shirt which read: “RIP 23 MD.”
She was cheered on by friends and family, including Harper, as she earned a split decision victory.
Her stablemate, 21-year-old Owen Durnan, also made it to the final in the men’s Under 64kg contest at the England Boxing National Amateur Championships, which ran alongside Bree’s event, but found himself on the wrong end of a split decision.
Bree says of her friendship with Harper: "We knew each other from years ago when we were about 14 or 15.
"I knew her when I was first into boxing. She stopped doing it, I stopped, but we continued our friendship.
"To me, she’s just like a normal person. She’s buzzing because she knows how much I have gone through and how much I have put in.
"Everybody knows how hard it’s been and I think everyone didn’t think I would do it.”
Professional boxer Anthony Tomlinson is another of Bree’s stablemates and attests to her hard work.
“She used to be brilliant at boxing," says Anthony, who has also trained alongside Harper.
"She took some time away and got herself in a dark place. I have watched her in the gym – unbelievable. The way she dedicates herself, she trains better than most pros.
"It was emotional watching her win the title. She’s a role model to me and shows me what hard work and dedication makes.
"I said Terri Harper would be a world champion and, with Bree, I believe she will be a world champion.”
Bree’s head trainer Roger Sampson, who coaches her alongside fellow volunteer Gary Wilson, adds: “She’s realised there’s more to life than sitting around getting fat and drinking.
“She had let herself go a bit but has totally changed her life around. She’s in a really good place to go and do something now. She really is talented.”
"He’s got me to where I need to be and I’m really grateful,” Bree says of Roger. “I feel like a spare part of his family because I’m always with him.”
These days Roger has to show his protege tough love and send her home from the gym through fear of her over-training.
She wants to stay active in the sport and an announcement on her future could be made as early as next month.
On the prospect of turning pro next year, Bree says: “That’s the next step, to see what we can achieve.
"Boxing is the only place I have felt happy. This is where I want to be, this is my purpose.
"I feel like I’m ready for a new goal already.”
So, any advice for others out there who may be struggling?
"It’s been a tough year but we have just got to carry on because we have only got one shot,” says Bree.
“If I can do it anybody can. I hope my story motivates somebody to want to be better.
"Everyone goes through stuff but it’s how you deal with it and come back from it.”
If you are struggling, you can call Samaritans free on 116 123.