OVILL MCKEN­ZIE

De­spite hav­ing his ul­ti­mate as­pi­ra­tion dashed, Ovill Mcken­zie is still smil­ing, writes Matt Bozeat

Boxing News - - Contents -

‘The Upset­ter’ dis­cusses an ex­tra­or­di­nary life and event­ful ca­reer

IMAG­INE work­ing your en­tire life try­ing to get some­where and when you fi­nally get where you want to be, it’s taken off you… Twice. Imag­ine be­ing Ovill Mcken­zie. “The dream was to get to the big time and I was right, right there,” said Mcken­zie, as his voice trailed off and his gaze be­came dis­tant, re­mem­ber­ing how his box­ing ca­reer ended.

First, he had to set­tle for a draw when chal­leng­ing Vic­tor Ramirez for the IBF cruis­er­weight ti­tle in Ar­gentina, a de­ci­sion that so in­censed pro­moter Frank War­ren, he asked the IBF to or­der an im­me­di­ate re­match.

“I know I beat him,” said Mcken­zie, “and so does he. He told me him­self twice that I won the fight.”

The IBF de­cided against or­der­ing a re­turn, but Mcken­zie’s per­for­mance against Ramirez made him a cred­i­ble op­po­nent for Marco Huck, work­ing his way back from the loss of his WBO belt.

There were those who felt the tim­ing of the fight suited Mcken­zie, but just days be­fore it was set to go ahead, his ca­reer was over after a health scare.

“That’s the way it goes,” shrugged Mcken­zie, and though such mem­o­ries aren’t that eas­ily ban­ished, hap­pily, there’s way more laugh­ter than bit­ter­ness in his rem­i­nisces. He looks back and finds much to be thank­ful for.

Mcken­zie de­scribed his up­bring­ing in Ja­maica as “dog eat dog” – and he only just sur­vived it.

“The po­lice ar­rested a gang leader once,” he re­mem­bered, “and there was a riot that went on for days. There were dead bod­ies on the ground and the po­lice were get­ting fired at and chased down the street. They were run­ning for their lives.

“I came out to have a peep – I like the drama – and the po­lice made out I was pi­lot­ing the gun­men. I ended up on the floor with a gun at my head. The po­lice said to me: ‘We could kill you now and noth­ing would hap­pen [as a con­se­quence].’

“I was beg­ging for my life. I was telling them: ‘Please don’t kill me, I’m a boxer,’ but they didn’t care. I held my breath. I was brac­ing my­self, I was wait­ing to get shot.”

The po­lice set­tled in­stead for smash­ing Mcken­zie’s ribs with the butts of their ri­fles. “I couldn’t walk prop­erly for days,” he said. After that ex­pe­ri­ence, Mcken­zie could deal with what he faced in Ar­gentina when he headed there to fight Ramirez at only 11 days’ no­tice in Oc­to­ber 2015.

“I spoke to Ola Afo­labi [beaten by Ramirez six months ear­lier] and he said: ‘They are hor­ri­ble over there, be care­ful.’ He was right,” said Mcken­zie. “I watched Ola’s fight with Ramirez and it wasn’t him. They had got to him and they tried to get to me. On the way to the venue, the taxi driver said he didn’t know where we were go­ing. Ev­ery­where was dark­ness and when we got there, there were po­lice with guns ev­ery­where. I looked at [trainer] Mar­tin [Bow­ers] and he had turned white!

“I went to look at the ring when we got there and a group jumped right in front of me wav­ing t-shirts in my face. They were try­ing to scare me, try­ing to get in my head. I took a t-shirt off them and started danc­ing with them! They couldn’t get to me. I’m from Ja­maica. I’m used to worse than what they could do.”

They got to Mcken­zie’s hand­ful of sup­port­ers.

“I had a few friends come over from

I WAS BEG­GING FOR MY LIFE. I WAS TELLING THEM: ‘PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, I’M A BOXER,’ BUT THEY DIDN’T CARE. I WAS WAIT­ING TO GET SHOT”

Derby to sup­port me,” he said, “but when I went to talk to them at the venue, they pre­tended they didn’t know me! They were s**tting them­selves. They were pre­tend­ing they were from Ar­gentina!”

Then there was the fight it­self. Mcken­zie, re­mem­ber, was only re­ally a light-heavy­weight.

“I went to the press con­fer­ence and when I saw him [Ramirez], I s**t my­self!” laughed Mcken­zie. “His head was mas­sive and one of his hands was big­ger than both of mine. At the weigh-in, his feet didn’t fit on the scales he was so big. I was s**tting my­self – lit­er­ally. I was on the toi­let ev­ery 20 min­utes. Mar­tin kept telling me: ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry…’”

Mcken­zie boxed out of his skin that night and after 12 rounds, many watch­ing had him a point or two up. But the de­ci­sion was a split draw.

“I boxed his head off,” said Ovill. “I never boxed like that be­fore in my life and I did it be­cause I didn’t want to get hit by him. I was mov­ing – and he couldn’t. He was a big lump.” That turned out to be Mcken­zie’s last fight. “I started to feel light-headed when I was spar­ring,” said the fa­ther of four of the in­ci­dent that led to his re­tire­ment just be­fore he was set to face Huck in Septem­ber 2016. “I told my spar­ring part­ner: ‘Wait’, and I don’t re­mem­ber any­thing after that. I was told I fainted and was out for about 45 sec­onds. I had no idea any­thing was wrong. I still can’t be­lieve it.”

Mcken­zie, 39, has since set up his own gym in Derby, named the Com­mon­wealth Box­ing Academy in recog­ni­tion of his two spells as Com­mon­wealth light-heavy­weight cham­pion, along with an un­bro­ken stint as Com­mon­wealth, and Bri­tish, cruis­er­weight boss. Classes are prov­ing pop­u­lar and Mcken­zie has plenty of sto­ries to tell his stu­dents.

Against Ramirez, Mcken­zie showed he could box, but fans will re­mem­ber his 25-12-1 (13) ca­reer for his quick KOS and his shootouts with Tony Bellew and Enzo Mac­carinelli.

The two fights with Bellew were very dif­fer­ent. The first was a dra­matic up-and-downer won by Bellew in eight rounds after he was floored in each of the first two ses­sions, and the sec­ond was a drab, one-sided points win for the Scouser.

“The ref­eree should never have stopped the first fight,” said Mcken­zie. “I said to Tony af­ter­wards: ‘If you don’t give me a re­match, it’s not go­ing to look good.’

“He did give me a re­match – and he ran like a chicken! I was think­ing: ‘This is go­ing to be an­other bust-up, we are go­ing to smash each other,’ but it ended up be­ing like a spar.

“Tony was smart. He didn’t want an­other tough fight. I just couldn’t get to him. He wasn’t hurt­ing me. I got com­fort­able and the fight sort of drifted away from me. When I saw him a while later, he said: ‘I did what I had to do.’ Fair play to him. I like Tony.”

His first fight with Mac­carinelli also ended pre­ma­turely, with the ref­eree jump­ing in to stop the Welsh­man in the sec­ond round. For

THEY WERE TRY­ING TO SCARE ME. THEY COULDN’T GET TO ME. I’M FROM JA­MAICA. I’M USED TO WORSE THAN WHAT THEY COULD DO”

MAR­TIN TOLD ME THE REF­EREE WAVED IT OFF BE­CAUSE, WHEN HE ASKED ME WHERE I WAS, I SAID: ‘MANCH­ESTER,’ BUT WE WERE IN CARDIFF!”

Mcken­zie, that was his sec­ond de­fence dur­ing his sec­ond reign as Com­mon­wealth light-heavy­weight cham­pion.

He had won the belt by over­pow­er­ing Jeff Evans in just 15 sec­onds – “I mugged him like we were in an al­ley­way” – but the stop­page of Mac­carinelli was less con­clu­sive, set­ting up a re­match that Mcken­zie re­mem­bers as a turn­ing point.

“That sec­ond fight with Mac­carinelli made me,” he said of his 11-round de­feat in Au­gust 2013. It made me be­lieve in my­self. That was a real fight – a war­rior fight. We licked each other. They don’t have fights like that any­more. I used to stop them early, but go­ing 11 hard rounds with a former world cham­pion made me think: ‘I can go places.’”

As was the case many times through­out our two hours to­gether, Mcken­zie added an amus­ing anec­dote. “After the fight, Mar­tin told me the ref­eree waved it off be­cause, when he asked me where I was, I said: ‘Manch­ester,’ but we were in Cardiff!”

Ovill laughed whole­heart­edly for a minute or so at the mem­ory.

Toe-to-toe fights tended to go Mcken­zie’s way. There was a cruis­er­weight Prize­fighter in May 2009 when, step­ping in at two weeks’ no­tice, he beat Terry Dun­stan, Dar­ren Cor­bett and John “Buster” Kee­ton.

“Dun­stan was the only one I feared and when I drew him I thought: ‘Bloody hell,’” said Mcken­zie. “But he never touched me and from the mo­ment I beat him, I knew I could win the tour­na­ment.” Fol­low­ing that suc­cess, Mcken­zie gave him­self the nick­name “The Upset­ter”. With such a rep­u­ta­tion, no won­der he strug­gled to get fights – un­til War­ren got be­hind him. “After Bellew and [Nathan] Clev­erly left him, Frank said to him­self: ‘Let’s get ‘The Upset­ter’ off the shelf and see what he can do,’” said Mcken­zie, laugh­ing. Mcken­zie so nearly gave War­ren and the Pea­cock Gym a world ti­tle. He started and fin­ished his pro ca­reer fight­ing out of the Can­ning Town gym – there were also spells with Clifton Mitchell and the Shin­fields in Der­byshire – and said: “The peo­ple at the Pea­cock were the best I met in box­ing. They did a lot for me – and they didn’t have to. I wanted to re­pay them with a world ti­tle…” That thought led to a few mo­ments’ quiet con­tem­pla­tion and there was more when Mcken­zie con­sid­ered the box­ing busi­ness and the way doors open rather more eas­ily for fighters who sell tick­ets than they ever did for him. The thing is, Mcken­zie would have surely sold tick­ets had he tried. He is for­ever smil­ing, full of fun. “Per­haps I could have tried [to sell tick­ets],” he con­cluded. “For the money, to make things bet­ter for my fam­ily. But I would just train, watch TV and go to bed. I just wanted to fight and be­come a cham­pion.”

Pho­tos: AC­TION IM­AGES

SHOOT-OUT: Bellew goes down LQ KLV ԴUVW ԴJKW ZLWK 0F.HQ]LH

HURTFUL: Mcken­zie cracks Mac­carinelli

GO­ING PLACES: Mcken­zie is a vet­eran of ex­cit­ing wars

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.