Leon Mckenzie, the super middle weight boxer has had a pretty interesting career. He spent 18 years as a professional footballer, before retiring and taking up professional boxing a few years later. He’s released a single, is training to be a councillor, and has his sights set on appearing in a film. Amongst all this, he’s a humble and an incredibly modest guy, who plays a strong role in getting rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health. We chat about spreading positivity, Disney films and working out to slow jams.
So Leon, we’ve spent a bit of time stalking your Instagram! You use the platform to share positivity and inspiration. Do you feel like the sports industry lacks voices like your own?
“A lot of people aren’t as confident to speak out about issues. I feel like I’ve grown into that person and I try and be the voice of inspiration. Even on days when I’m not great myself, I try to bring positivity. One thing I do notice when I post something to inspire people, I get so many messages and emails of thanks. It goes so deep when someone says, ‘Leon, you’ve saved my life this year’. When I hear these things it keeps me holding on. I want to inspire, before money or any of those things. If it helps people just by speaking and being honest with my emotions then so be it. It gives me purpose”.
You spend a lot of time talking on behalf of charities about mental health, and quite recently spoke about Tyson Fury’s struggle with mental health. What can we do to encourage people to talk about it?
“When people get the flu, it’s pretty common isn’t it? And they will tell you they have the flu. Hopefully in days to come, mental health will be spoken about as openly. It becomes therapeutic when you speak about it, it helps you to heal. One of the best bits of advice that I can give is to just be honest with yourself”
As everyone knows, you made quite a big career change. Was becoming a boxer a specific light-bulb moment for you?
“The secret is, I’m from a boxing family. My dad’s a former British champion and my Uncle is a 3 times world champion. I’ve been in the gym since I was 7 so I always knew I was pretty tasty at boxing. When football took off when I was 14/15, I was fortunate to have 18 years as a professional footballer. I believe that everything is about timing. When I retired, I went through a few personal things and lost my way a little bit. I got in the gym, if your mental health is suffering, exercise is the most important thing to bring into your life. So I started training and sparing again. Boxing came into my life at the right time.”
Now obviously, your training and nutrition has to be strict in the lead up to a fight. When you can let yourself go a little bit, what do you like to enjoy?
I love soul food. Jamaican food, but man I can pile it on. My meals at the moment are meat, veg, meat, veg. It’s boring!
Do you have a pre fight ritual? How do you prepare for getting in the ring?
“It’s quite a big build up. At the weigh in, I’m pretty cool, calm and I do what I’ve got to do. On fight day, I’m quiet. There’s lot of emotions. I speak to my babies and then I’m disciplined. If I see you, of course I would acknowledge you but I’m shut off. If I need to relax then I’ll put on Mary Poppins or something! Even when I work out, I like listening to slow jams. Not all this loud grime stuff, maybe I’m getting old”.
Many thanks to Focus Fitness for allowing us the opportunity to meet Leon. He trained as a personal trainer with them a few years ago and they are now his main sponsor for his upcoming fight on 12th November. Fitness offer government funded PT training courses, meaning you only pay back your course fees once you earn over £21k which is a pretty sweet deal. If you would like any more information about them, click here.