Since I picked up the pencil again last month the invitations to contribute to other outlets have arrived much quicker than I anticipated. One such venue is the digital publication Knockout London. The concept of digital magazines was not something I’d encountered during my last ‘run’, however, the opportunity to frame the career of Clinton McKenzie for readers was too good an opportunity to turn down.
In the research for the piece I reminded myself of some of Clinton’s most famous encounters, it was an enjoyable couple of hours as I was transported back to the earthy reality of boxing in the 1980s in which most of his professional career was conducted.
Alongside the YouTube feast, I also stumbled across an interview with Clinton on Steve Bunce’s 2011 BBC London show in which the Jamaican born Croydon man discussed his, at the time, freshly released Boxing Fitness book. Except Clinton had neglected to furnish host Steve with a copy. I’m not sure whether he ever did get one.
It is true that, save for those closest to the fighters in question and the diehards of the sport, the likes of McKenzie, Sylvester Mittee, Colin Jones, Tony Sibson, the Finnegans and later Herol Graham are often overlooked.
I suggest in the article that this neglect is due to the golden heavyweight era and the Four Kings absorbing most of the available attention. It is a simplistic viewpoint but certainly following Henry Cooper’s departure to the emergence of McGuigan and Bruno in the 1980s the spotlight wasn’t quite the same.
Clinton experienced most of the lows and several of the highs that boxing had to offer, from tangling with the imperious Sugar Ray Leonard at the 1976 Olympics having being omitted from the GB squad to begin with, to winning the European crown. He was also disqualified in consecutive bouts for low blows and was condemned by his promoter for the second of the two and left the sport as the reigning British Lightweight Champion following a failed bid to reclaim the European title.
Willing to travel, Clinton was proud of the fact he was never knocked out and he preserved this record in some obscure places. One such fifteen round contest took place in Lagos, Nigeria.
“I’ve never been knocked out, but I’ve been put down. The worst was a 15-round title fight in Nigeria in 1980. I lost on points. Afterwards, I was totally dehydrated, shattered, I couldn’t get up, I didn’t know where I was, I was dizzy, I could hardly stand up, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t think straight, I had short-term memory loss. I suppose you could put that down to concussion. It didn’t affect my behaviour, because I didn’t go out, I waited for my body to heal. It took about two weeks.”
I’d encourage you to check out the magazine, it includes interviews with Frank Buglioni and reflection pieces on Amir Khan and Rocky Marciano too and draws together video content alongside the written word. An interesting format.