Sport is so often used as a metaphor for life, but none capture it quite like the sport of boxing.
Being ‘on the ropes’ or ‘down for the count’ are embedded in our vocabulary.
The very idea of getting knocked down and finding a way back to our feet is drilled into our collective consciousness, even for those who’d never dream of climbing through the ropes.
As those who do will tell you, that ring is the loneliest place in the world. Sure, you have some company in there, but it’s hellbent on disconnecting you from your consciousness.
You can surround yourself with all manner of people before you step into that fire but – when the bell rings – you’re on your own.
In my mind, it just felt like I didn’t have any other option. Even now I’m still in pain every day because I don’t know what happened and how I could lose everything.
It’s a fighter’s mindset. It’s their reality, one they can struggle to shake even when life hits harder than any punch ever could.
It’s something Wollongong welterweight Johnny Krishna knows all too well having stared rock bottom in the face more times than he cares to count over the last 12 months.
It was a downward spiral that came to a head just after Christmas last year and saw him ring in the New Year alone in his car wondering where he’d go next.
“I was in my car, everyone was out partying and stuff and I was just driving around trying to find somewhere to get some rest,” Krishna recalls.
“I was up all night I was that anxious. I’d lost everything, lost my family, I lost my job, I was homeless.
“I only had the clothes on my back and what I could get in the car.
“I’d get the odd [motel] room, here and there but I was living off scraps really.
“You go to Woolies and buy five bread rolls for 30 cents each and that’s what’s got to last you for the day. I was a broken man.”
So broken, he felt he had no way back from the depression and anxiety that had plagued him for the best part of a decade.
“I ending up hurting myself, I tried to take my own life,” he said.
“In my mind, it just felt like I didn’t have any other option. Even now I’m still in pain every day because I don’t know what happened and how I could lose everything.”
It's a question he’s still yet to find an answer for. This isn't the all too familiar story of a fighter who lived too hard or fast out of the ring.
It makes those answers all the more difficult find but, for the father of two, they're questions for a day further down the road.
“My biggest problem is overthinking,” he said.
“When you’ve worked all your life and done the right thing and been a good person you shouldn’t have to go through this but it’s happened.
“I’ve never done anything to anyone but instead of focusing on the why or how of it, I just try and focus on the future.
“It’s been a slow, slow process. I battle a lot of mental health issues as well, depression, anxiety, ADHD and at the moment I’m just taking it day by day.
“Some days are better than others. There’s days where you wake up and you wonder is it worth suffering that day but it’s just my mind overthinking things.”
One key figure who recognised a man on the brink was Australian boxing great Jeff Fenech, who made the trip down to Wollongong to help drag him back to his feet.
“Jeff was the only one who was really there for me,” Krishna said.
“He came down to Wollongong, he picked me up and took me back to his place.
“He booked me a ticket to Thailand and took me there on a training camp with Billy Dib and Brock Jarvis for two weeks.
“I’ve got two boys and they need their father around. I knew I had to do something.”
Carrying a hefty 86 kilos, 17 kilos heavier than his 69-kilogram fighting weight, it was a tough camp, but Fenech was certain it was what he needed.
“He was doing it really tough,” Fenech told The Mercury.
“We trained together, we went overseas together and hopefully he’s got his head back because when you’re fighting it’s hard when you have other problems.
“He’s got little boys, he’s a great dad and he loves his kids, so it’s been difficult for him.
“We went over there and trained in camp and he showed, when he puts his head down and knuckles down, that he can do anything.
“He was around young Brock Jarvis and when you’re around those type of people and you watch them train it’s infectious.”
I'm 9-0 and there's room for a lot more. It’s my time now to show everyone I’m not gone and I’m not going anywhere.
Krishna is certainly not the only fighter doing it tough that Fenech has lent a hand and ear to. For all the negative attention it attracts, the three division world champion has seen the sport save plenty of souls.
“If it wasn’t for boxing I wouldn’t be here and there’s many more stories that are similar to mine,” Fenech
“There’s a whole lot of good things that come out of the sport, the discipline and the training, especially if you’ve got a good mentor and someone to talk to.
“That’s what I was hoping he’d get out of it.”
The camp environment with rising star Jarvis and former IBF featherweight champion Dib also helped Krishna shake off the tendency, common among fighters, to fight their battles alone.
“[Fighters] think we can handle everything because we’re big and strong and all that, but that’s the problem with life today we don’t talk enough,” Fenech said.
“I know for a while there Johnny was locking himself away on his own and when you’re on your own you drive yourself crazy.
“You’ve got to talk. That’s one thing I’ve tried to do with Johnny, I try and talk to him as much as I can and let him know he's not alone.
“I call him, I talk to him and try and get him to talk to me to get things off his plate and off his mind.
“Hopefully him having another fight will be the recipe he needs to move on.”
It got the ball rolling, and the former WBF Asia-Pacific champion found another valuable mentor in Russell Thompson, and a family in the Full Circle MMA team at Fairy Meadow.
It includes the legendary Bulli Blaster, and former sparring partner, Shannan Taylor who, along with Thompson, has helped prepare him for a return to the ring in the new year.
It’s one he’ll enter in a far better place than the man who spent last New Year’s Eve alone his car and, while it hasn't been the panacea to all his problems, he's confident the preparation has put him on the path to that elusive inner peace.
“When all this happened I had absolutely nobody,” he said.
“I couldn’t talk to anyone and, even to do this day I’m not a big talker.
“I’ve got a lot of social anxiety, I find it hard to talk to people and socialise with people.
“I still have bad days, but I know all I need to do is pick up the phone and give Russ a call, or give Jeff a call and for five minutes I’ll let it all out.
“They’re two of the strongest people you could meet. He’s been through so much, Russ, and he’s experienced life at its worst as well.
“I know it’s good for me to be around him.”
He’ll be looking to build on his 9-0 record as a professional, but he knows it’s part of a much larger battle.
“I don't take medication I just don't want to go down that path,” he said.
“I’ve been been diagnosed with depression, ADHD and been on medication for all of it. It works for some people but the best medication for me is to get into the gym.
“My routine’s the same Monday to Friday. I work, I come to training, if I finish training early I go and train again and get home late. I don’t want to be at home by myself.
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“It would have been so easy to go down the wrong path, there’s a lot of things going on in my head, but I know this is the only thing I can do to keep me on the right track.
“I’m 9-0 and there’s room for a lot more. It’s my time now to show everyone I’m not gone and I’m not going anywhere.”
And he'll be doing it for free. It’s not that he couldn't use the money, but his much bigger fight has never been about dollars and cents.
“I don’t want anything for me, whatever money I get out of it I want to give it the homeless [services] in Wollongong,” he said.
“When I was out there doing it tough, I was able to fight my way back from it. A lot of guys don’t have that option, or have that help.
“I want to go down that track and raise awareness about homelessness and mental health issues.
“You should never turn your back on someone with mental health issues, especially if they’re doing all they can to deal with it.
“You shouldn't be afraid to talk about it and I really encourage anyone going through some things to do that.”