Rise… Fall… Rise… Fall… RISE – The fight for mental health
This morning I’m inspired. A fire inside me lit because I’ve just learned that Leon McKenzie is fighting again. That man. An unstoppable force or an immovable object. I think it’s the latter but, I am going to swear here, fuck. The guy does not give up. If you believe in fate and destiny Leon doesn’t bend to it. He makes his own path.
From 17 years of age you are signed as a professional footballer, playing in the top flight. You are what you would consider as rich, famous, with girls chasing you everywhere (Leon happens to be one of those good looking gits too). You go on to score 115 goals, including the winner at Old Trafford, in 400 appearances. In 2005 you win player of the season and team league top scorer. Honestly, if this was me, I would go nuts at this point and think I was a God. But for Leon it became darker.
Towards the end of his career Leon got injured. He was then imprisoned for a driving offence and when he got out his career was over. Depression hit hard and fast. In 2009 Leon sadly tried to end his life. Story over yes? No.
After this Leon started to recover, started to learn about mental health and how it manifests itself in life. He started to fight back and became an ambassador for fellow sufferers. But that wasn’t enough of a fight for Leon so he turned to his family roots of boxing. If you’ve ever done a speck of boxing training, even in a posh London boutique with pretty lighting you know its f#*king tough. It takes you to what we call the dark place and makes you fight your way out of exhaustion. This was Leon’s way back.
He flourished immediately winning eight fights, drawing one. He then came to train with Jay and listen to my guidance. He won his ninth fight with us, destroyed the guy with power. But then as always with Leon’s life he had to fight again just to get the next opponent. It took 10 months to get it sorted which, as any fighter will tell you, builds up rust on the spokes. Physically he was ready but mentally I think he built it up too much in for himself and thought he was fighting for all of us, for redemption. He didn’t need to. He fought for the English title and lost, admirably. Now for a depression sufferer this is devastating. It’s another brick wall stopping you from functioning correctly in life.
We didn’t see Leon much after the fight. We kept in touch but he’s been rebuilding his mind. He’s been back working with mental health organisations, doing open and inspirational talks in front of thousands of suffers, something I imagine he needed to do for himself.
But now he’s back in the gym, rising again. We’ve only just found out about the fight this morning and we couldn’t be prouder. What a man. He’s secured himself a fight on July 9th against Alan Higgins for the Southern Area Title. If he wins, and he will win, he’ll be a champion once again.
As the heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Jordan always preached;
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid to not try.”