Duke McKenzie’s achievements are too typically neglected – they shouldn’t be, writes Steve Bunce
IMAGINE being referred to as Duke, profitable titles at three weights and but there’s one other fighter nicknamed the Duke getting the publicity? It could possibly occur, belief me. It isn’t typically that we miss an anniversary, however in late June of 1991, Duke McKenzie gained his second world belt, the WBO bantamweight title, with a triple shut-out: two scores of 120-108 and one among 120-109 towards Gaby Canizales on the Elephant and Fort Leisure Centre. It’s a win that seldom will get the excessive respect it deserves.
I do know it was not referred to as a Leisure Centre, however I all the time add ‘Leisure’ to the least unique outpost on the boxing path.
Duke’s win was buried on the time, misplaced beneath a fury of actual and invented outrage on the loss on factors suffered by Michael Watson in his battle with Chris Eubank for the WBO middleweight title. That battle was shut, not the ridiculous piece of larceny all of us wish to think about. Watson deserved a rematch, and all week in makeshift and swiftly organized conferences, he moved nearer to getting it. No one was speaking about McKenzie towards Canizales.
McKenzie walked to the ring on the venue, which all the time had the odor of chlorine within the air from the wave machine, on that Sunday, wanting as calm as I had ever seen him. It was a fantasy land of fights and claims and lights away from Earl’s Court docket eight nights earlier when Watson fell simply quick.
On the Elephant, the press row at ringside was not even packed; Eubank and Watson had been on Information at Ten, the nation was calling for justice in a rematch and in the meantime, in South London, the little preventing idol of boxing’s first household was preparing for the battle of his life. There was a sense within the air and it appeared like a number of diehard followers had made the Sunday pilgrimage. Duke was a boxer for purists.
And at about the identical time, far-off in a loopy land of missed fights, unhealthy nights, bed-hopping and different reckless pursuits, Tommy The Duke Morrison was the jinxed grasp at his personal model of carnival. Morrison was a one-man riot, apologies to Jody Meikle, and he was simply getting began. Morrison was unbeaten in 28 with 24 stoppages or knockouts; Morrison was preparing for a routine win over Ray Mercer for the WBO heavyweight title in October of the 12 months. That went flawed, however don’t fear, the Duke was nonetheless the story.
A few nights earlier than McKenzie fought Canizales, Morrison had a 100-second blow-out in Las Vegas. They lived in parallel boxing worlds, make no mistake. Tommy then went again to getting ready within the comforting arms of his adoring followers.
Canizales had gained and misplaced title fights over 15 rounds, he had been in with the best bantamweights of his era and he had gained the WBO model a number of months earlier. He had misplaced a complete of seven of his 56 fights and was not completed; Mickey Duff gambled appropriately on bringing him over with out fanfare. It was cold-eye judgement, religion by Duff in one among his favourites – McKenzie needed to win to make the gamble pay.
McKenzie had misplaced his IBF flyweight title to the scales and Dave McAuley, a fearsome duo, and misplaced a European title at bantam in France to the native idol, Thierry Jacob.
The battle towards Canizales was not a walkover – that translation of the night time got here after the masterclass. And that’s what Duke delivered within the ring on the soulless venue. It was a tragic constructing, that fancy swimming pool and it by no means got here near changing Manor Place Baths, which stood empty for many years with simply the misplaced echoes of followers after the padlocks went on the doorways. That’s not rose-tinted, memory-lane rubbish, that’s a easy truth: the wave-pool, a number of hundred metres up the Walworth Street, was a poor substitute as a boxing venue.
I do know diamond and fur world title baubles are a fiery subject in the mean time, however for posterity it’s value recognising that Duke McKenzie was the primary British boxer since Bob Fitzsimmons to win world titles at two weights. Bob began his enterprise in 1891, a century earlier and remained an exiled boxer all through his profession.
That historic night time on the very finish of June in 1991 is value commemorating.
Canizales had misplaced a WBA bantamweight battle over 15 rounds to Jeff Chandler in 1983, stopped unbeaten Richie Sandoval in 1986 to win the belt and retired after the McKenzie loss. He was a top quality operator. He was solely simply 31 when he misplaced to McKenzie, who by the way in which was 28. Gaby and his brother, Orlando, stay Texan legends.
The opposite Duke, Morrison, is lifeless. He died too younger and surrounded by too many legends. His battle to disclaim HIV an infection grew to become the story of his life, a much more vicious battle than any of his fights within the ring and the true bedlam of his non-public life. Tommy was simply 44 when he died, however he lived a helluva life.
Our Duke was fairly sensible that night time. Fabulous, managed, expert, delicate, somewhat boxing genius. Attempt to watch it – it was a privilege to be at ringside. Additionally, he did flip that venue wild along with his high-quality boxing show. McKenzie beat Cesar Soto and Wilfredo Vargas in defences and misplaced the belt to Rafael Del Valle. He was not completed and only a 12 months after beating Canizales, he gained the WBO super-bantamweight title, his third weight, with one other night time of brilliance towards Jesse Benavides. Duke McKenzie was particular.
By the way, the true one-man riot, Jody Meikle, continues to be on the market – you may have been warned.
What I discover most charming about that Sunday is the geography of Duke’s profession. He barely left South London – he will get a nostril bleed if he will get additional north than the Thames – with title wins on the Elephant and Fort, Battersea and Lewisham. That, my good friend, is what you name a neighborhood idol.