Anthony Ogogo is learning to love life again after swapping boxing for professional wrestling, admitting his career-ending eye injury had left him suicidal.
A bronze medallist at the London Olympics, Ogogo was forced into early retirement in 2019 after just 12 professional bouts after he suffered a fractured eye socket in defeat to Craig Cunningham.
The injury led to a number of complications and botched surgeries and a failed attempt to sue for loss of earnings followed, leaving Ogogo to come to terms with his in-ring career ending at just 30 years of age.
As surgery costs soared and with no way to provide for his family, he fell into a dark place with the company of his wife the only barrier from taking his own life.
“I’d like to think I was half-articulate but I can’t start to articulate the feelings that I felt,” he told the PA news agency.
“I retired on March, 11 2019, I remember it like the back of my hand, my last fight was basically three years before – October 2016 – and there was no conceivable way that I was thinking I’ve walked to the ring as a 27-year-old, as a baby, entering my prime, for the last time.
“I spent £100,000 on surgeries in America, that was everything I earned in boxing, and much more beside. I sold my car, remortgaged my house to pay for surgery that didn’t work.
“Then I had an injection in my eye, it was a Botox injection to weaken the muscle to try to bring the eye to a better position – it missed the intended muscle and permanently paralysed the nerve in my left eye.
“I gave my life to boxing and I had nothing to show for it other than bad vision; no money, no belts and no titles.
“I lost my career, I lost my passion, lost my livelihood and I’ve had to sit and watch people who have half of my ability grow and become world champions and multimillionaires.
“No exaggeration. I was generally suicidal and there’s one night in my life, it was December 2019, if my wife wasn’t home that day, I probably would have ended my life that night because I was beyond the brink but thankfully my wife and I were able to address my life.
“She literally saved my life – that was my ground zero and I’ve built up from that.”
A childhood fan of professional wrestling, Ogogo began training for a second career between the ropes.
His desire was strengthened by further personal tragedy when a close friend with whom he had shared a passion for watching wrestling as a child died.
“My best friend, during the Covid lockdown, he died from bladder cancer,” Ogogo said.
“He had a really horrible nine-month battle with this cancer and it took him, 30 years old with a beautiful kid, a lovely young man. So funny, so vibrant.
“It took that to happen for me to go ‘f***ing hell, yes I’ve a little bit of bad luck but I’m still alive’. I could still do things I want to do. There are things I want to enjoy and, as cheesy as it sounds, it gave a second lease on life.”
That new outlook took him to training – and eventually signing – with All Elite Wrestling but even then his progress was checked by further eye surgery, having already made his television debut with the company.
He believes his presence at AEW can help legitimise an often maligned and mocked discipline and is aiming to have a long-lasting return to the ring.
“If people see this guy who won a medal in boxing at London 2012 they think ‘there’s got to be something to it’,” he added.
“It’s the lack of respect that we get from the outside world that is the frustrating bit because it’s a really, really, really, hard sport but I think I do add some legitimacy to it.
“When tough guys like me say it hurts to take a bump, people realise wrestling is a serious industry.”
Wrestling with the moniker ‘The Guv’nor’ Suffolk-born Ogogo watches Premier League football with his AEW boss and Fulham owner Tony Khan and, with rivals WWE bringing a live show to Cardiff in September, Ogogo also holds aspirations of performing in front of a home crowd once again.
“100 percent, I can’t wait,” he replied when asked if that was a target. “I think we do a stellar job. I can’t wait to take it to the UK and get cheered for once! I always get booed over here.
“I want to be the first English world champion, to be the first black world champion in AEW.
“But firstly, for me, when I started doing this, I wanted to have fun in my life again and I’m really having fun, I’m really loving life.”