By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
OVILL MCKENZIE was persuaded to take up boxing by the friends he used to beat up as a teenage street fighter.
He followed their advice and now, aged 35, the Derby-based Jamaican is finally homing in on a shot at the world title.
McKenzie defends his British and Commonwealth titles against Blackpool bruiser Matty Askin at London’s York Hall next Friday.
Victory will take him a massive step nearer to a tilt at Germany’s WBO cruiserweight belt holder Marco Huck.
McKenzie’s arrival on the world title scene is a far cry from his early life on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.
McKenzie said: “I was 19 when I started boxing in Jamaica. Me and two or three pals would fight each other every Friday and Saturday night.
“It wasn’t bare-knuckle stuff – we would be wearing gloves and throwing punches at each other in the middle of the street.
“I always got the better of them, catching them on the temple and hurting them. Once, I knocked one of my mates out cold and his mum came out, shouted at me and cut up all the gloves.
“All my friends kept telling me to keep boxing because they could see I had something. And that’s just what I did.
“I had 15 amateur fights in Jamaica and got straight into the national team. But they didn’t send me to the Athens Olympics in 2004 because they didn’t have enough money.”
McKenzie moved to Britain in 2001, turned professional two years later and now has a record of 23 wins and 12 losses.
He trains at the famous Peacock Gym in Canning Town and his CV includes a victory over Enzo Maccarinelli plus winning the Prizefighter cruiserweight tournament in May 2009.
He said: “I’m getting there and I need a world title fight. I want that world title and I have the heart to do it.
“I’ve worked hard throughout my career and not had the protection some unbeaten prospects have had.
“But it has made me the fighter I am now and I believe I’m finally in with a shot of a world title if I beat Askin.
“That would be a dream for me. I want a good champion like Marco Huck – he’s a well respected name in the division with the prestigious WBO belt that I want.
“Without being disrespectful to Huck, I know that I could beat him. He’s got the style that I know I can overcome.
“If I get a call to try to take out Marco Huck, I’ll be ready. My nickname is ‘The Upsetter’ and I am ready to do the big one.”