Footballer-turned-mental health campaigner Leon McKenzie writes another chapter in his remarkable career when he is appointed to Football’s Black List on Thursday evening, writes Dev Trehan.
Croydon-born McKenzie started his journey in the game at boyhood club Crystal Palace and enjoyed spells at Peterborough, Norwich and Coventry before returning to the capital to play for Charlton.
But during his time at The Valley – after 15 years as a professional footballer – McKenzie tried to take his own life as injuries took their toll and the financial reality of two divorces began to kick in.
McKenzie somehow managed to rebuild his career and rebuild his life. He extended his football career by turning out for Northampton, Kettering and Corby before following in the footsteps of his father Clinton and turning professional as a boxer at the age of 35.
Eighteen months after trading the centre circle for the squared circle, southpaw fighter McKenzie lifted the International Masters title, before eventually calling time on his 11-fight boxing career last year, aged 39.
Two days after his final bout, McKenzie visited Sky Studios to film an episode for the groundbreaking 32-part My Icon series, which was aired across 31 days during Black History Month in October 2017, and featured the likes of Anthony Joshua, Thierry Henry and Heather Watson.
McKenzie – nephew of former three-weight world champion Duke – talked about his mentors and inspirations during his journey in sport and also spoke candidly about his mental health issues, including how he manages them today.
McKenzie has worked extensively with mental health charities MIND and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), and in February took up a role with the organisation LAPS (Life After Professional Sport), to help sportsmen and women transition to life after playing at the highest level.
And his contribution to football as well as his efforts to raise mental health awareness will see him on Thursday appointed to Football’s Black List, an initiative that shines a light on people of African and Caribbean backgrounds in the game.
Leon McKenzie’s My Icon episode is one of eight different My Icon episodes being shown throughout Thursday on Sky Sports Mix. The whole series is also available On Demand.
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