Monday, July 1, 2013

Ex-Footballer Leon Mckenzie Is A Hit On His Boxing Debut

By Peter Silkov

Achieving a professional sporting career in one discipline is difficult enough, to move successfully from one sport to another is even rarer, and so Leon Mckenzies 1-0 (1ko) winning debut, as boxer on Saturday night, was an achievement in itself, regardless of where it may take him in the future. Mckenzie took his professional boxing bow against John Mason 1-6 at London’s historic York Hall, in Bethnal Green, as part of Steve Goodwin’s ’Trial of Destruction’ promotion. 

At the age of thirty-five, Leon ‘Big Mck’ Mckenzie was making the switch from professional footballer to professional boxer, after an 18 year football career which saw him score over 100 goals as a striker and peak with him playing for Norwich in the Premier League. Howevern despite his successful time as a footballer Mckenzie struggled with self doubt and depression for much of his playing career, and when his playing days began to wind down due to persistent injuries Mckenzie found himself falling into a deep abyss of  clinical depression.  Professional sport still seems wary of the word depression and those who admit to suffering from it still run a gauntlet of derision and mockery in some quarters, from both their fans and fellow sportsmen. So it took a certain kind of bravery for Mckenzie to reveal in his recent autobiography the true depths to which he sank during his depression, culminating in a suicide attempt and a spell in jail. Ultimately it was during his time behind bars, for attempting to avoid speeding  convictions, that Mckenzie was able to re-evaluate his life and begin to make a fresh start away from football. 

A crucial part of Mckenzie tackling his demons was his decision to turn to boxing for a fresh career in sport. In this new career Mckenzie has some pedigree, as he is the son of Clinton Mckenzie, a former British and European light-welterweight champion, and the nephew of Duke Mckenzie, a former three-weight world champion. Both Clinton and Duke Mckenzie have helped Leon get ready for his own foray into tough world of professional boxing.

Mckenzie has used the platform, that his boxing debut has given him, to talk about his battle with depression and how mental illness is still very much a taboo in the world of professional sport; many sufferers are undeclared and unhelped. 

In the run up to his boxing debut, ’Big Mck’ has talked movingly of how the pressures of being a high level footballer, plus the tragic loss through suicide of his sister, had combined to take him down into the darkest of places.    

When Mckenzie entered the York Hall ring on Saturday night, it had the added potency of being the same historic venue where his father Clinton had made his own professional debut thirty seven years ago.  On his entrance, with his father Clinton at his side, ’Big Mck’ was greeted by rapturous applause from the near full house. The fight itself was short but explosive.  Fighting at super-middleweight, Mckenzie looked very fit and started brightly, catching an aggressive Mason moving in with his southpaw jab and showing few nerves for a boxing debutant. In the second ’Big Mck’ began moving forward with more aggression, and unleashing some powerful shots which soon had Mason down for a count of eight. Mason bravely beat the count, and made an attempt at fighting back, but left himself recklessly open as he did so, and was soon down again from another flurry of hard blows from ’Big Mck’.  Although Mason rose to his feet once again, the referee wisely decided to call a halt to the fight, to much applause from the York Hall crowd.    

After making such a late start to his boxing career, Mckenzie may have more of a finite future than other younger debutants, but he has already completed a long personal journey just by achieving his aim of becoming a boxer, and in many ways
what ever he achieves in the from now on will be a bonus.

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and

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