Duke McKenzie (right) with older brother Clinton. Photo by Derek Rowe
On Sunday afternoon, former three-weight world champion Duke McKenzie was recognized for his work with the Ringside Charitable Trust, the British Ex-Boxer’s association and the Croydon Ex-Boxer’s association.
McKenzie, who has been involved in helping former boxers for some time, was honored with a plaque at the house he grew up in at 103 Birchanger Road in South London.
“The main people who were responsible for the plaque are (RCT Treasurer) Paul Fairweather and (Chairman) Dave Harris, and they did me proud,” McKenzie told The Ring. “This is legacy; this house is going to be standing for another 100 years. The plaque is beautiful.”
McKenzie, who boxed professionally from 1982 to 1998, and won world titles at flyweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight, regularly helps raise funds.
“The work I do as an ambassador for the Ringside Charitable Trust is to promote their cause,” he explained. “I attend functions in the U.K. and abroad. All money raised goes directly to them.
“I’m obviously very passionate about this, having served 17 years as a professional boxer. It’s time to give back.”
The 59-year-old father of three traveled to Orlando, Florida, earlier this year and was part of a special event.
“It was entitled ‘A Night in my Shoes’ in conjunction with Kids Beating Cancer and The Moth Foundation,” McKenzie said. “They help raise awareness. David Moth and his lovely wife, Marion, are pretty much bankrolling it. They put us up in an excellent hotel, and we had two events on different nights.
“We had a 5-star Gala night, where the general public could come along and listen to our stories. Michael Watson, Tony Sibson, Jimmy Batten, Derek Williams, Colin McMillan, Robbie Regan, James Cooke, and several other boxers were there. Some of these guys need a lot of help.
“What the Ringside Charitable Trust is doing is giving these guys opportunities to see the world and meet different people and give them joy in their lives. To me, that’s absolutely outstanding because that could be me one day.
“It’s just nice to know there’s somebody out there who cares. I think for any fighter who has laced up a pair of gloves in their life, all they want when their careers are finished is not to be forgotten. They want appreciation for the years of hard work they have put into the sport of boxing. If you need support, that’s what [the Ringside Charitable Trust] is providing.”
McKenzie feels that the fallen heroes who gave blood, sweat and tears are all too often pushed to one side.
“They’ve given so much to this sport,” said the three-time champion. “It’s almost like the boxing world has forgotten about them and turned their back on them – it’s wrong.
“Promoters are in a position to give fighters the right guidance and point them in the right direction. [My old manger/ promoter] Micky Duff said to me, ‘Spend a little, save a lot.’ I listened to what he told me. It was constructive advice. I don’t know if promoters do that today.”
McKenzie applies the same hard work and commitment to this cause as he did to his own fight career.
“I do counseling,” he said. “I’m not qualified with a degree, but with over 20 years in boxing, both amateur and professional, I have vast experience in spotting certain signs that a boxer shows when there’re struggling.
“I’m no expert, but I see this as my calling. I’m not a promoter, coach, or cut man. The long-term plan is to become a counselor and really make a difference.”
McKenzie disclosed that the Ringside Charitable Trust have big plans for the future to lighten the load on stricken fighters.
“They’re trying to raise money to build a state-of-the-art care home,” he said. “They want to build a 30-bedroom care home. They’ve raised quite a lot of money to date. They’re going to have their own bedrooms, a games room, a pool room, cinema and alcohol free bar. They’re going to make it a real home for ex-boxers.
“It’s not just about getting it up and running; it’s the maintenance. It’s got to be fully staffed and it’s going to be for ex-boxers who have fallen on hard times.”
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED