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LEON McKENZIE BOOK SERIALISATION: When I was scoring against Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton, I never believed I"d be in prison…

LEON McKENZIE BOOK EXCLUSIVE: When I was scoring against United, City and Everton, I never believed I'd be in prison with paedophiles, murderers and rapistsPLUS: How the PFA let me down when I needed them most

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UPDATED:

12:35 GMT, 28 November 2012

Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie has fought a long and gruelling battle with depression. Yesterday, in the first extract of an exclusive MailOnline serialisation of his new autobiography 'My Fight With Life', the former Premier League striker recounted the day he returned from training with Charlton Athletic and tried to take his own life. Today, McKenzie recalls being sent to prison for sending bogus letters in a bid to avoid speeding convictions…

I RETIRED FROM THE GAME FEELING SO EMPTY, YET I NEVER RECEIVED A CALL FROM THE PFA TO ASK IF I WAS OKAY…Scroll down to the bottom of the page to read how McKenzie felt let down by the PFA…

When Judge Bray passed sentence on me, I didn’t look back.

I could tell from the tears and the moans that my family were in pieces. I wanted to join them, but I had to be strong now.

I picked up the bag you’re told to prepare in case you get sent down and wandered down the stairs out the back of the court.

I was searched, handcuffed and sat down on a bench inside a container on the prison van that was going to take me to Woodhill Prison.

It is a category A facility where, me, a first-time driving offender, would be mixing with paedophiles, murderers, rapists and other hardcore villains.

I was told Woodhill was a very high
security ‘Close Supervision Centre’ for prisoners who are among the most
difficult and disruptive in the prison system.

I don’t know what those in the justice system had been told about me then. Maybe they had me confused with someone else.

But
basically I was a footballer not a criminal. There’s no way I deserved
to be banged up in prison and no way that I should be sent to such a
high security facility.

Scroll down for two video specials…

Prison break: Former Premier League goalscorer Leon McKenzie has battled depression throughout his career and he is lifting the lid in Sportsmail

Prison break: Former Premier League goalscorer Leon McKenzie has battled depression throughout his career and he is lifting the lid in Sportsmail

Leon McKenzie of Crystal Palace Wearing special T-shirt in 2000

Crystal Palace 3 vs 3 Stockport - Picture shows : Leon McKenzie of Crystal Palace scores's the first

The real deal: South London boy McKenzie laps up the notoriety in a special T-shirt at Palace in 2000 (left) and celebrates with a goal against Stockport (right)

Leon McKenzie arrives at Northampton Crown Court

Court date: McKenzie arrives at Northampton Crown Court hand in hand with wife Sofia in February this year. His friend Harvey (back left) attended in support

LEON McKENZIE:
My Fight With Life

Leon McKenzie: My Fight With Life

Click here to buy your copy now…Read yesterday's first exclusive extract: Nothing could stop me now. I raced back from training to my hotel room determined to kill myself… Click here…

The
guards at the court were sympathetic. The lady whose job it was to
explain what would now happen to me, said she couldn’t believe that I’d
been sent down.

Other wrong ‘uns sentenced that day piled on the prison van.

Some knew who I was. One knew I had made a record with my mate Harvey and started rapping to impress me.

It was a surreal moment listening to a criminal rapping on the way to prison, but it did make me laugh at least.

I’ve seen plenty of prison movies and walking into Woodhill for the first time felt like being in a film.

The residents were eyeing me up and down, checking me out. Convicts came out of their cells to have a look at the newbies.

Believe it or not some started chanting my name, not in a bad way, but like they were fans watching me play in a football match.

‘Leon, Leon, Leon’, they shouted. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to wave at them or just keep my head down.

But inside I was scared and I knew I couldn’t show it. Mentally I was preparing myself for this challenge and showing any sort of weakness was not an option if I was to survive.

I’d been verbally abused by one guy as I walked in for the first time. I clocked his face though and challenged him when I saw him in the gym later. He backed down, I gained some respect.

I was placed on suicide watch because of my background. I was left on my own in a cell with guards checking up on me every hour to make sure I was still breathing.

I felt the situation was completely
bizarre. The authorities clearly recognised I had a mental illness and
yet they still sent me to a facility that would test tougher minds than
mine.

The powers that be couldn’t have known it, but there was no danger of a second attempt to top myself though.

This was a massive challenge and I kept
thinking back to what life was like for me in the Bexleyheath hotel
room. I refused to cry this time, but right now, unlike a couple of
years earlier, looking to the future was actually an advantage.

Scroll down for video…

Boxer Clinton McKenzie, with his son Leon McKenzie, in the ring at the Bloomsbury Centre Hotel after he had beaten Steve Early in a British title fight.

Leon McKenzie, Norwich, looks dejected at the end NORWICH CITY Vs FULHAM... Barclays Premiership, Carrow Road, Norwich. Norwich City 0 Fulham 1

Glove affair: Young Leon in the ring to celebrate dad Clinton's British title win in 1982 (left) but joy turns to despair as McKenzie's Norwich lose 1-0 at Fulham (right)

SENT TO PRISON FOR SENDING BOGUS LETTERS

MailOnline news story – February 2012

Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie (right) has been sent to prison for six months for sending bogus letters to avoid speeding convictions.

McKenzie was jailed at Northampton Crown Court after admitting six charges of attempting to dodge speeding fines between 2008 and 2010.

It comes after McKenzie revealed to Sportsmail in December that he attempted to commit suicide towards the end of his career after suffering from depression.

The 33-year-old (he is now 34) was sentenced after admitting sending the letters to Northamptonshire police.

The letters – that claimed to be from a fictional garage in London – said his car was off the road when he was caught speeding.

Claire Howell, prosecuting last year, said that each time McKenzie received a notice of intended prosecution, he sent a letter claiming mechanics were working on his car when it was flashed by speed cameras.

Judge Richard Bray said: 'A custodial sentence is necessary for this type of offence which strikes right at the heart of justice. It would completely send out the wrong message if I did not hand out a custodial sentence.'

When I was at my lowest, the future was the problem. Now it offered hope, if only I could survive the next three months.

I’d started helping Clarke Carlisle and the PFA with understanding and helping players suffering from depression and I’d made a record with Harvey to kick-start my music career, something that had appealed to me for years.

Sure, I was miserable and I was still finding it hard to fathom how some stupidity on my part over speeding fines had led me to this situation, but I was determined to stay positive mentally.

The screws told me Woodhill was a prison that once held Charles Bronson. Fred and Rose West had stayed, Ian Huntley had been an inmate and Myra Hindley had spent time in the women’s part.

Bronson apparently had to have six guards accompany him for a pee. He once broke free from his minders just so he could slap the governor in the face so, he clearly relished his reputation as being one of Britain’s hardest men.

Bronson described his time at Woodhill as a ‘living hell’. He slept on a concrete slab on the floor of a tiny room. His sole window was bullet proof.

Christ, if a nutter like him, who had spent most of his adult life behind bars, found it hard living at Woodhill, how on earth would a pretty footballer like me cope!

Hindley was the devil incarnate according to the screws. One stare from her made the hairs on the back of the neck stand to attention – she could terrify you without saying a word.

And here I was, Leon McKenzie, family man, following in their footsteps thanks to a lapse in judgement that hadn’t hurt anyone apart from me.

Sadly I wasn’t even Leon McKenzie any more. I was Prisoner A5818CL.

I was allowed three visitors a month. I was sentenced on a Wednesday and on the Saturday Sofia and Bruce Dyer, an old Crystal Palace team-mate and long-time friend, came to see me for a couple of hours and, while it was great that I had people who cared for me and loved me enough to want to come and visit me in this place, I didn’t let them come back.

I bid a tearful farewell to them both and resigned myself to solitude for the next couple of months.

At visiting times, the prisoners sit there at a table, wearing a bib over their tatty grey prison uniform, waiting for their visitors to come through the door. Emotionally I was wrecked by kids running in to see their prisoner father.

I didn’t want my kids to see me in a place like this. Prison was no place for me, never mind my children.

WATCH NOW – VIDEO: McKenzie's music video collaboration with MC Harvey…

Ball boy: McKenzie grabs the ball after scoring Norwich's first goal in the 3-2 defeat by Everton in 2004

Ball boy: McKenzie grabs the ball after scoring Norwich's first goal in the 3-2 defeat by Everton in 2004

LEON'S TYPICAL PRISON DAY

7am: Bang on the cell door meant time to get up, hand and face wash, teeth cleaning slip into my cleaner’s uniform.

7.30am-9.30am: Complete my cleaning jobs, serve breakfast to the other inmates. Take my breakfast to my cell.

9.30am-10.30am: Social time. Hang around the pool room, communal room for chat, games etc.

10.30am-noon: Locked up again.

Noon-1pm: Out to clean the cells ready for new arrivals.

1pm-3pm: Locked up again.

3pm-4pm: Out for exercise so off to the gym or a walk around the outside compound.

4pm-5pm: Locked up again.

5pm-6pm: Dinner.

6pm-7pm: Socialising in pool room, communal room.

7pm-7am: Locked up. Lights are allowed to be kept on in the cell all night. TV is available, but only five channels.

I locked myself away that night and refused to let anyone else visit, until Michael Duberry came in just before I was released.

Sofia told my younger kids that I was
away in London working on my music. I spoke to them on the phone
occasionally, but hearing my kids’ voices made me feel weak. No displays
of weakness were recommended in prison.

I missed my baby daughter’s first birthday which made me feel like s***. I was constantly in a sh***y mood. If anyone had confronted me physically that day I’d have fought them.

Reality kicked in the day after Sofia’s visit. My mindset had changed overnight and, even from time in a Category A prison, I had to take what positives I could from being here.

If I could get through this, I could get through anything, even away games at Millwall!

'Tough times don’t last, tough people do” is one of my favourite sayings. ‘Dubes’ reminded me of it in an e-mail he sent (EmailAPrisoner.com is a wonderful service!)

It was the perfect expression for prison and e-mails like this one from ‘Dubes’ kept me going inside.

‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

‘That best describes both me and you.

‘We are good friends, that’s the word of others.

‘But we both know we would say we are brothers.

‘For me, you walked in when many others walked out.

‘Neither did you have to scream and shout.

‘How will we remember the year we just had

‘Be glad it’s over Will we be happy or sad

‘It’s all a lesson, I just hope we pass the test.

‘And if there is more of the same, I hope we can avoid the rest.

Myra Hindley

Charles Bronson

Notorious: Previous Woodhill inmates Myra Hindley (left) and Charles Bronson (right) had given the prison an intimidating air of menace before McKenzie was sent there

Leon McKenzie

‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.

‘We are both stronger than we thought and I say that with a confident voice.’

Jason
Lee, Bruce Dyer, mum, Sofia, dad, Rebecca, Clarke Carlisle and my
cousin Damien all wrote to me as did Spoony, under his real name of
Jonathan Joseph.

Me and
Spoony have become really good friends since that time and like Dubes
said ‘many will walk out of your life, but the true friends will walk
in.’

I was offered a job as a cleaner which I readily accepted. I served food to the inmates. I had to keep my mind busy and active to get through this. I wrote a journal every day.

Anyway, hoovering earned you extra credits to use on the phone or for chocolate in the canteen so I was happy for once to be doing the household chores.

Believe me, they were huge perks especially as prison meals seemed to consist of starch, potatoes and fried stuff that would sit in your stomach for days.

My old Norwich chairman Delia Smith would have been appalled.

I worked hard at my new job. When I was scoring against Manchester United, Man City and Everton in Premier League football, I couldn’t have dreamt that I’d be happy mopping floors or serving s*** food a few years later, but strangely I was.

Darren Huckerby, a strike partner from my days with Norwich City, had always said I’d do the best job I possibly could whether I was sweeping roads or playing as a striker in the Premier League and he was right, although I’d gone to some extreme lengths to prove it!

I was moved to a slightly bigger cell with ‘MCKENZIE – CLEANER’ on the door.

Believe me that was a much sought after title inside, even by some of the hard men.

I got on great with Gary, Pete, Fletch and Ash, the other cleaners on my wing. We had our nicknames, Wayne was ‘Smokey’, Ash was ‘Jonny Vegas’, Pete was ‘Bert’ and I was ‘Superstar’.

LEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life, Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99. Click here to buy your copy now…I RETIRED FROM THE GAME FEELING SO LOST AND EMPTY, YET I NEVER RECEIVED A CALL FROM THE PFA TO ASK IF I WAS OKAY…

I am the living proof of what can happen to footballers who are not prepared for the end of their careers.

The death of Gary Speed brought the world’s gaze onto depression within football and to me it’s obvious that this is an area that the PFA, who are a very rich organisation, should become involved in financially.

I stayed silent after my own suicide attempt which was very wrong. Thank God I have had no relapses, but I was scared inside for a very long time.
In my opinion players should know they have someone to talk to about their problems no matter how serious they are or how embarrassing they think they are.

I didn’t have that luxury, but it’s a situation that has to change.

Now the PFA do some positive things and they say they have been working in these areas for some time.

They claim that only since Speed’s death have others tried to get involved in a more high profile way.

That’s untrue in my case as I had been lobbying the PFA before then. I admit it took Speed’s sad situation to make me speak out publicly about my suicide and my depression, but the PFA will hopefully note how well received my actions were.

I retired from the game feeling so lost and empty I needed support. Yet I never had a phone call from the PFA to ask if I was okay. I never had a phone call from the PFA asking if there was anything they could do for me.

It wouldn’t have taken a lot for someone to call and say: 'Leon we are sorry to hear about your attempted suicide, but if you need any help please call.'
I tempted sufferers out of the woodwork. The first step on the road to recovery is often admitting and confronting your problems and I have seen evidence of that from the players who contacted me after I went public.

The PFA issued a booklet on handling depression a couple of seasons ago. It was 36 pages long and was sent to all 4,000 current full-time professional footballers before Speed’s death and 50,000 ex-players after it.

It appears that the PFA were the ones that actually became more active after Speed’s death.

The advice was good, but is sending out a 36-page booklet with a few helpline numbers on it enough I don’t think so as so much more could have been done.

I suspect the PFA know that now. That’s why they decided to act so publicly when a high-profile former player, whose actions attracted attention all around the world, was lost.

My own view is that the PFA shouldn’t have waited until Speed passed away. They should have acted on the phone calls people like me were making.

VIDEO: McKenzie on his new autobiography…

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LEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life, Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99. Click here to buy your copy now…

Gary Speed suicide anniversary: Leon McKenzie book serialisation – I raced back from training to my hotel room determined to kill myself

LEON McKENZIE BOOK EXCLUSIVE: Nothing could stop me now.
I raced back from training to my hotel room determined to kill myself… I was sick of players, coaches and fans staring at me.

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UPDATED:

15:50 GMT, 27 November 2012

On the anniversary of Gary Speed's tragic
death, Sportsmail publishes here the harrowing opening chapter of Leon
McKenzie's autobiography 'My Fight With Life'. In the first extract of
an exclusive MailOnline serialisation, the former Premier League striker
recounts the bleakest of days when he tried to take his own life.
+++ WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT +++.

I’d had enough of life, my life at least, so it was time to end it all.

Thoughts of suicide had popped in and out of my head for a while now, but for the last week they’d been pretty much permanent visitors.

A pulled hamstring towards the end of a training session pushed me over the edge. It was a relatively trivial moment for sure, and an occupational hazard for a footballer, but I’d been beating myself up mentally for months and this was the punch that knocked me down and out.

I could think of only one way to escape the misery that had enveloped my life. At that horrible time I couldn’t explain why I felt numb, empty and desolate. On the outside I had everything, but inside I was lost in a fog of uncertainty.

Dark times: Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, at his Northamptonshire home last year

Dark times: Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, at his Northamptonshire home last year

TOMORROW: PART II OF MailOnline's EXCLUSIVE SERIALISATION…
Charles Bronson and Myra Hindley – life in prison and how the PFA failed depressed footballers like meLEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life

Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99

Leon McKenzie: My Fight With Life

Click here to buy your copy now…

I knew deep down that suicide was selfish. I knew it would cause misery and desperation to the people I loved the most and I know now that’s what depression does to you.

You don’t think straight. Hope is abandoned. Back then logic and rational thought had left my head months before leaving just one idea swimming back and forth inside my mind.

I wanted out. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, I wanted out and I wanted out today.

I was a man with a beautiful, loving wife and three young children who meant the world to me. They were my life and yet I wanted to leave them behind to try and find a better place for me.

They’d be better off without me anyway. I wasn’t contributing much. I didn’t want my sadness to crush them.

Inexplicable thoughts (although they seemed perfectly sensible at the time) like that were running through my head day after miserable, stinking day. I was trapped in a maze of mood swings that made little sense.

I’d lost sight of what was good and positive in my life. I saw only misery and uncertainty ahead.

The people I worked with didn’t suspect a thing. I appeared normal to them. I would appear calm, in good humour, one of the lads, someone without a care in the world.

That was how it was in the world of professional football. You had to keep up appearances, join in the banter as most people at that time, in this macho, testosterone-filled world would view mental illness as a weakness rather than a problem that needed attention, a problem that demanded help.

I was good at keeping up appearances. I could be a livewire in the dressing room, laughing, shouting and bantering as loudly as anyone.

Inside I was dying though and I was gradually convincing myself that suicide was the best way to escape the torment.

I was a footballer at Charlton
Athletic coming to the end of a career that had included two spells in
the Premier League, an appearance at Wembley, a couple of promotions and
some memorable and magical moments.

But
I wasn’t really a footballer any more as I was permanently injured and
couldn’t string two games together for my latest club.

Scroll down for video…

Leon McKenzie of Norwich is foiled by Shay Given of Newcastle during the Barclays Premiership match between Norwich City and Newcastle United at Carrow Road on April 20, 2005

Boxer Clinton McKenzie, with his son Leon McKenzie, in the ring

Premier class: McKenzie is fouled by Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given (left) to win a Barclays Premier League penalty for Norwich in 2005 and in the ring with his British light welterweight champion boxer dad, Clinton (right). McKenzie's father saved his son after Leon attempted suicide at a south-east London hotel

LEON McKENZIE: Factfile…

Full name: Leon Mark McKenzie
Date of birth: May 17, 1978 (age 34)
Place of birth: Croydon
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)

Club information

Current club: Corby Town
Youth career: Crystal Palace

Senior career
Apps† Gls
1995–2000 Crystal Palace 85 7
1997 → Fulham (loan) 3 0
1998 → Peterborough (loan) 14 8
2000–2003 Peterborough 90 46
2003–2006 Norwich City 79 20
2006–2009 Coventry City 62 12
2009–2010 Charlton Athletic 12 0
2010–2011 Northampton Town 27 10
2011 Kettering Town 9 2
2012- Corby Town 10 3

People, fans especially, would still envy my lifestyle. They’d assume I was collecting a few grand a week and living comfortably for doing very little, but I hated my existence.

For as long as I could remember, or at least from the time that I chose football over the family tradition of boxing, I just wanted to score goals, I wanted to play at the highest level, I wanted to be loved.

I’d achieved it all, but now it had been taken away from me by a body struggling to the point of collapse with the demands of my work. That had led to my mind falling apart as well. Now I just couldn’t face the future.

After signing me, Charlton had put me up in a Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath. I’d been there for four months, returning to an empty room after training in the early hours of the afternoon, collecting my room key, making sure the door was locked behind me, pulling the curtains, lying on the bed and either staring into space or just bursting into tears, usually the latter, often both.

I had no energy, no drive. All through my football career I’d flogged myself to the limits in training and on the pitch, and I generally lived a hectic life, but now I couldn’t even be bothered to switch the TV on in my room, or make a drink, or visit the bathroom.

The sheer weight of this illness is hard to explain to those who have never come into contact with it.

I wasn’t mad. I didn’t feel like I’d gone crazy and there was no chance of me making trouble for anyone. I didn’t have the passion that would make me rant and rave or to fight with anyone. My head was empty apart from that persistent thought of suicide.

Some sufferers of depression never get to the suicide stage. I seemed to arrive there quickly. Anxiety had used up most of my energy, and all of my fight.
I certainly didn’t want to be with anyone on those miserable afternoons. I had no idea what the Charlton players did after lunch because I didn’t mix with them once the chore of training had been completed.

Former glories: Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, poses at his Northamptonshire home in front of his collection of signed shirts

Former glories: Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, poses at his Northamptonshire home in front of his collection of signed shirts

Fighting on: McKenzie has battled back from his suicide bid and is now playing for Corby Town in the Blue Square North (Conference)

Fighting on: McKenzie has battled back from his suicide bid and is now playing for Corby Town in the Blue Square North (Conference)

Sofia, my wife, would call. She was living in the family home with our daughter in Northampton. I’d answer, but I wasn’t really there. I knew how hard I’d worked to make myself a Premier League footballer and now I was feeling desperately sorry for myself because my entire career was coming to an end.

No-one had prepared me for the end of my playing days. As my career had taken off, it was all big promises of fame and massive earnings. I was surrounded by sycophants and well wishers telling me nothing could go wrong now I’d made it to the big time. I was set up for life.

I wasn’t prepared for the reality of a career collapsing in a heap, the prospect of future obscurity , and God only knows what else.

Powerhouse: McKenzie celebrates after scoring the second goal for Norwich in a famous 2-0 win over Manchester United in April 2005

Powerhouse: McKenzie celebrates after scoring the second goal for Norwich in a famous 2-0 win over Manchester United in April 2005

This was tough and, in my head at least, I was dealing with it all on my own.

I was sick of players, coaching staff and fans staring at me. I knew what they were thinking: ‘look at Leon, he’s injured and not able to play again.’

After leaving Coventry to join Charlton, I’d also got myself into serious debt which obviously didn’t help my state of mind so now was the time to act.

It was an unremarkable Tuesday morning when I finally decided to put my suicide plan into operation. I was training well, I felt fit for a change and then my hamstring went.

I pulled up. I couldn’t run anymore. I was jinxed so what was the point in carrying on, in football or in life.

I
could sense everyone glaring at me. There was sympathy from people at
the club, but not everyone, and to be fair I felt embarrassed and guilty
myself.

I was embarrassed
because I was desperate to show this club how good I could be. Instead
my body was breaking down and I was crying inside.

I
went to the medical room for treatment. It was a path I knew well. I
was on my own in there for a while and I just sat there on a treatment
bed and roared my eyes out.

While
I was there, I casually asked the club doctor for some sleeping pills,
explaining that I was having too many restless nights and I was
struggling to get through training as a result.

He
gave me a batch to help me but like the rest of the club staff, he had
no idea that what I was really suffering was a lot worse than a bout of
insomnia. He also couldn’t have known that I already had a separate
batch of 20 sleeping pills back at the hotel.

I
had enough now to be sure of making my exit. I also had some
anti-inflammatories and there was an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels in
my hotel room to wash everything down.

Nothing
could stop me now. I drove to the hotel car park and rang my mum. I
burst into tears, telling her that I couldn’t take any more pain, any
more anguish. I was sick of being injured and scared about what the
future held for me.

Mum
started crying. She hated how unhappy I had become. She hated the fact
that injuries had started to interrupt my career on a regular basis and
she now decided she wanted me to give up playing.

Good old mum- always practical, always caring- but she hadn’t grasped what I was planning.

I fooled myself that the mental struggles I was experiencing ran deeper than a career that was coming to an inglorious end.

I tried to convince myself that I had nothing left to prove or achieve anyway. I’d found and married my soul-mate, I’d played football at the highest level, I’d scored 100 goals, I’d fathered three beautiful children.

What else was there Especially as my body had now given way.

I look back at those days now and cringe. I realise now that my ‘Queen B’, my name for Sofia, and my children were reason enough to keep going, but I must have been in a bad, dark place that particular night, a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I decided the world was now horrible and unforgiving and I’d seen enough of it. I wanted to join my sister Tracey who had taken her own life aged 23 eight years earlier.

I had no professional help from
within or from outside of football while I struggled with my thoughts.
I’d seen no doctors or medical experts on depression and I didn’t feel
able to tell anyone within my sport as there appeared little chance of
finding any understanding.

I’d even pushed my loving wife away.

Read Neil Ashton's exclusive interview with Leon McKenzie from December 2011…
Click here to read the full exclusive interview

Now
it was time to go. I was sure of that. I had the means and there was
no-one to stop me. I put the phone down on mum and raced into the hotel.
I had to do this before I could change my mind.

I
lay on the bed and chucked one pill after another into my mouth, and
after each batch of five or six tablets, I took a decent swig of
whiskey.

I was relentless. I was dedicated to death. This was serious shit now. I couldn’t stop myself and I didn’t want to.

Inside five minutes 40 sleeping tablets and several antiinflammatories were in my system along with half a bottle of whiskey.

Leon McKenzie, Norwich City, celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace in 2005

Leon McKenzie of Norwich City jumps a tackle from Kenny Cunningham of Birmingham City

Leon McKenzie celebrates his goal in the 2-0 win for Peterborough over Cardiff

Life in the spotlight: McKenzie celebrates scoring Norwich's second in their April 2005 2-0 win over Manchester United (left), jumping a tackle from Kenny Cunningham of Birmingham City (centre) and celebrating scoring against Cardiff for Peterborough (right)

I’d surely done it. I don’t recall much, there was no memory of an inner-peace, no sense of relief, no life flashing before me, just a longing to fall asleep for one last time.

But then I thought of my dad. I needed to say thank you and goodbye to my big, powerful father who had always been there for me, supporting me during every step of the way in my life.

I had followed his path into professional sport and he was one of the major reasons why I had travelled as far as I had.

Even in my semi-conscious state, I told myself I had to speak to him one last time. I don’t believe it was a sub-conscious cry for help or one last attempt to get people to see and understand my problems as for all I knew my dad could have been on the other side of the country, unable to make a difference.

I wasn’t panicking. In fact, I was
eerily calm. I told dad I’d done something stupid. I told him I’d taken
loads of pills. He freaked out, while I crashed around the room before
collapsing on the bed and passing out.

In amongst it: McKenzie (centre in Norwich kit) competes for the ball in the West Brom box during a 2004 Premier League encounter at Carrow Road

In amongst it: McKenzie (centre in Norwich kit) competes for the ball in the West Brom box during a 2004 Premier League encounter at Carrow Road

Ledley King of Spurs clashes with Leon McKenzie of Norwich

Leon McKenzie (left) of Coventry and QPR's Peter Ramage

Cut and thrust: McKenzie challenges Tottenham legend Ledley King (left) and battles it out for Coventry City against QPR in the Championship (right)

It turned out dad was close by.

I
had been drifting in and out of consciousness for what seemed like
hours when dad burst in with a couple of members of the hotel staff.
I was groggy, my eyes were heavy and shut, but I could still hear.

Leon McKenzie: My Fight With Life

My dad’s voice was faint, but full of concern: ‘Champ, wake up,’ he was repeating over and over again.

Then my world went black and silent. I assumed this was death.

I was wrong. I came round the next
morning in hospital. Sofia was there with my mum, dad, cousins, Tracey’s
mum Kim, my elder sister Rebecca, everyone I loved deeply, they were
all there.

And they were
all in tears. They were expecting, hoping, to hear some words to suggest
I’d reached rock bottom and that I’d now fight my way back up.
'It didn’t work then,' I said, finally realising I was still alive.

My mum stormed out of the room, appalled at what I had just said.

And
I wasn’t joking. I was disappointed to still be around. The nurse said
that one or two more pills would have done the job and that I was lucky,
but that was the last thing I felt.

Dad
had been 10 minutes away when I called him and he’d arrived in the nick
of time. That was also lucky, but frustrating from my illogical point
of view.
I instantly regretted not blagging some more pills from the Charlton medical staff.

I’d failed to kill myself and I was still depressed. More so because of what I’d just put those I loved the most through. My nightmare was to continue.

I was discharged that morning, so I got up, picked up my kit and went off to the football ground for treatment on my hamstring.

Life must go on even if you didn’t want it to.

LEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life, Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99. Click here to buy your copy now…
VIDEO: McKenzie on his new autobiography…

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Enzo Maccarinelli beaten by Ovil McKenzie in controversial fashion

Devastated Maccarinelli controversially stopped in second round as McKenzie retains Commonwealth title

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 9 November 2012

Enzo Maccarinelli was robbed of the chance to win the only belt missing from his collection when his light-heavyweight Commonwealth title clash with Ovil McKenzie was stopped prematurely in the second round.

The Welshman, 32, came under pressure from the champion but appeared in no distress, only for referee Ian John-Lewis to end the fight, much to the bewilderment of the former cruiserweight world champion, and the crowd.

'I am absolutely devastated,' Maccarinelli said. 'The referee apologised to me afterwards.

Taking the blows: Enzo Maccarinelli gets caught with a left hook from Ovill McKenzie

Taking the blows: Enzo Maccarinelli gets caught with a left hook from Ovill McKenzie

'We knew he [McKenzie] was strong but it was my plan to take the shots on the ropes. My hands were up and I blocked his shots until the referee stepped in.'

McKenzie meanwhile admitted the fight could have continued.

'It's not my fault, there's nothing I can do,' he said. 'I will give this guy a rematch anytime. The fight could have carried on, I can't lie about that.'

Maccarinelli was involved in a controversial bout for the second time this year following his British title victory over Shane McPhilbin in March.

Stoppage time: Refree Ian John Lewis explains to Maccarinelli why he stopped the fight against McKenzie. The referee later apologised

Stoppage time: Refree Ian John Lewis explains to Maccarinelli why he stopped the fight against McKenzie. The referee later apologised

That fight was marred by the bizarre decision to end the first round 47 seconds early after Maccarinelli had been knocked down. He was floored again in the third before winning on all three judges' scorecards.

Having endured a torrid four years since losing a cruiserweight unification bout with David Haye at the O2 Arena in London, Maccarinelli had hoped to get back on track against McKenzie after serving a six-month ban for failing a drugs test.

Game over: Maccarinelli looks stunned as McKenzie celebrates his win

Game over: Maccarinelli looks stunned as McKenzie celebrates his win

He looked comfortable in the opening stages, although the man from Derby was the busier man which was also the case in the second session before the controversial stoppage.

The final fight of the evening saw Paul Butler maintain his unbeaten record and claim the vacant British super flyweight title with a stunning first-round stoppage of John Donnelly.

The home favourite delivered a sickening body shot after just 69 seconds to send the Liverpool crowd into delirium.

Tony Bellew hits out at Frank Warren

Bellew aims shot at ex-promoter Warren after beating Miranda comfortably

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 9 September 2012

Tony Bellew took a swipe at Frank Warren after putting himself in contention for a second world title shot with an unspectacular but effective dismantling of Edison Miranda on Saturday.

The Liverpool light-heavyweight parted company with Warren’s promotional company in May and in the first fight of a temporary arrangement with Eddie Hearn he stopped Miranda with a left to the body in the ninth at Alexandra Palace.

Hey: Tony Bellew hit out at Frank Warren

Hey: Tony Bellew hit out at Frank Warren

The win against a two-time contender,
albeit a rapidly fading one, justified Bellew’s claims that he deserves
to fight the division’s elite – Hearn is hoping to make a world title
fight in 2013 – but it also prompted a claim that Warren rushed him into
his title defeat against Nathan Cleverly last October.

‘I was asking for these fights 18 months ago,’ he said. ‘When I first jumped on the scene after winning the Commonwealth title I was asking for these fights. For some reason people didn’t believe in me. What I want to say is, where was my European title fight, where were my international 10 rounders, where were my learning fights

‘I went from Ovill McKenzie – with all due respect a Prize Fighter winner – to fighting someone ranked No 5 (Cleverly) in the world. I was thrown to the lions. Where was my learning fight Where was the belief in me There was no backing for me.’

Comfortable: Bellew beat Edison Miranda (right)

Comfortable: Bellew beat Edison Miranda (right)

Bellew’s argument against the way he was previously managed jars, not least because he was so vocal in asking for the Cleverly fight, but the 29-year-old is desperate to get a second shot at a world title, with IBF champion Tavoris Cloud, WBA holder Beibut Shumenov and WBO king Cleverly all in his sights.

‘In an ideal world I’d fight Shumenov or Cloud tomorrow,’ he said. ‘Chad Dawson (WBC champion), I’ll be honest, is the best. If I become his mandatory I’ll fight him. I’d fight anyone, even King Kong on the Empire State Building, but I’m not going to choose him.’

Chris Wood hails Hampshire"s unbelievable T20 victory over Yorkshire

Unbelievable: Wood hails Hampshire's T20 heroes as they celebrate victory over Yorkshire

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UPDATED:

23:05 GMT, 25 August 2012

Hampshire bowler Chris Wood described their Friends Life t20 victory over Yorkshire as 'unbelievable' after they captured the trophy for the second time in three years.

The 22-year-old held his nerve and went for just three runs in the last over of the match as Yorkshire fell 10 runs short of Hampshire's 150 for six.

'It is unbelievable,' Wood told Sky Sports 1. 'To be here three years in a row was a revelation in itself and to take two wins is unbelievable and we will have a jolly good night.

Over the moon: Chris Wood was delighted to win the T20

Over the moon: Chris Wood was delighted to win the T20

'All year I have been practising that yorker at the death. I backed myself and it came off tonight.'

Wood (three for 26) and 21-year-old Danny Briggs (one for 27) took the plaudits and batsman Neil McKenzie was full of praise for the young pair.

'The guys played fabulously, there was some great death bowling at the end there – all the guys put in a great effort,' he said.

'They (Wood and Briggs) may be youngsters but have been with the squad last three or four years. One (Briggs) has played for England and the other one, he could be if he keeps carrying on. They are youngsters but have great experience.'

Silver lining: Hampshire's captain Dimitri Mascarenhas lifts the Trophy and celebrates winning the Friends Life T20 Final

Silver lining: Hampshire's captain Dimitri Mascarenhas lifts the Trophy and celebrates winning the Friends Life T20 Final

Yorkshire's David Miller was named man of the match after his unbeaten 72 from 46 kept his side in with a chance of victory and Hampshire opener Jimmy Adams, who himself made 43, admitted that he thought the South African could lead his side to victory.

'David Miller played and incredible innings, when he was on strike I feared the worst,' he said.

'I thought 150 was competitive. Obviously you want as many as you can get but 150 gives us a really good chance.

Winning feeling: Hampshire celebrate winning the T20

Winning feeling: Hampshire celebrate winning the T20

'It is about time I had some runs this year. It would been nice to make few more, but I set a reasonable platform for us to have a go at the end.'

Coming so close was little consolation to Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale, who vowed that his side would return stronger.

'(We're) gutted to fall at the last over,” he said. “It was a great knock by David Miller, it was a fantastic effort.

'I thought they were gettable, batting has been our strength. We have come a long way in Twenty20 cricket, the lads have shown class, we are a young side, developing and we will improve.'

London 2012 Olympics: Ashley McKenzie out of judo

'Bad boy' McKenzie crashes out of judo competition at first hurdle to No 2 seed

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UPDATED:

09:40 GMT, 28 July 2012

Britain's Ashley McKenzie suffered an early exit from the men's under-60kg extra-lightweight competition when he was beaten by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka, the No 2 seed, at ExCeL.

The 23-year-old – who was the subject of a no-holds-barred TV documentary, 'The Bad Boy Olympian', which charted his battle to win selection for Team GB – started brightly, but the experience of the world silver medallist soon told.

McKenzie fell further behind with passivity penalties mid-way through the five-minute contest, which left an uphill battle to continue his Olympic dream, which was ended with 50 seconds left by an ippon score.

Crash: Great Britain's Ashley McKenzie (right) is thrown by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka

Crash: Great Britain's Ashley McKenzie (right) is thrown by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka

Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka fights with Britain's Ashley Mckenzie (blue)

Dartford's Kelly Edwards will also face a tough challenge, having been given a bye into the second round against Japan's top seed Tomoko Fukumi in the women's under-48kg.

Sugar Ray Leonard and Clinton McKenzie interview

In 1976, Sugar Ray Leonard fought Clinton McKenzie at the Montreal Olympics… Sportsmail brought them back together

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 30 May 2012

They greeted each other like long-lost brothers and, to the intents and purposes of proper sportsmen who challenged each other to mortal combat in the prime of youth and lived to re-tell the tale, so they are. Brothers at arms.

Sugar Ray Leonard, the baby-faced darling of American boxing, and Clinton McKenzie, a grizzled but treasured memento of the British ring, recognised each other instantly.

Scroll down to watch a video of Sugar Ray Leonard v Clinton McKenzie

Good to see you! Clinton McKenzie and Sugar Ray Leonard meet up agaiin

Good to see you! Clinton McKenzie and Sugar Ray Leonard meet up agaiin

The sunlit, pastoral calm gracing the
veranda of a golf clubhouse in Southern California is light years from
the rattling tin shed in Canada within which their first, violent
embrace was cheered to the iron rafters. Thirty-six years to be exact.

‘Hey, buddy,’ said Leonard.

‘What’s up, man’ said McKenzie.

They hugged again. For the first time since Jimmy Carter was elected President, since we all kidded ourselves Donna Summer was looking at us when she sang Love To Love You Baby, since Concorde carried its first supersonic passengers to the skies, since petrol cost 70p a gallon and the original Rocky broke box office records.

Genuine, old-fashioned respect. Not today’s nuff gangsta posturing.

With the simple humility of an honest man proud that he won his British title, McKenzie said: ‘Unbelievable to be here. Unbelievable you still look the same.’

To the erudite manner born one of the greatest world champions, Leonard said: ‘I’m glad we have this chance to re-visit our moment in history.’

The chance came courtesy of this newspaper’s build-up for the London Olympics, our expression of the dream which will enchant our capital city two months from now.

Their mutual moment had come in the third round of the light-welterweight tournament at the Montreal Games.

‘Did you think you won’ asked Leonard with a playful slap of the bicep.

‘Oh no, you won all right,’ answered McKenzie, arms waving by way of illustration as he added: ‘You too smooth, too fast.’

Good memories: McKenzie and Leonard relive their fight at the Montreal Olympics

Good memories: McKenzie and Leonard relive their fight at the Montreal Olympics

Leonard, grinning: ‘Didn’t you think you might have got a draw’

McKenzie, abashed: ‘No, no. Too clever for me. I knew you’d go on and win the gold.’

‘Come on, Clinton. It was a good fight.’

‘But not close, Ray. Don’t forget I took a standing eight count in the second round.’

‘I don’t forget,’ said Leonard, putting a kindly arm around him.

Nor does he need to watch the video to remind him how he danced around McKenzie en route to Olympic glory, the lightning left jabs and pinpoint right hooks paving the way for the dazzling combinations which staggered him into that count and cemented the victory.

In fact, Leonard is possessed of extraordinary recall of all the vital events in an epic career which catapulted him from Olympic gold to the legendary fights which won him seven world titles in five weight divisions.

‘I remember all the important fights,’ he says, ‘Vividly. In detail. I studied Clinton like I studied every opponent before a fight, amateur and professional. I saw hardly any flaws in him despite his typical, straight-up European style.

‘He was an accomplished boxer and I was ready for a difficult fight. It helped me that on the day he was not aggressive enough. Too passive. Maybe that’s why (unlike his brother Duke) he never became a world champion.’

Champion: Leonard with his gold medal

Champion: Leonard with his gold medal

An unwitting explanation for that came from McKenzie himself when he told Leonard: ‘All the talk in the Olympic village was about this hot, hot prospect from the US. You. I knew I was going in against a future world champion, a future all-time great. It was an honour for me just to box you.’

A mite overawed he may have been but the Jamaican-born South Londoner helped prime Leonard for one of the most impressive triumphs in the history of Olympic boxing. The final pitted the brightest star of one of the finest US teams ever assembled for the Games against a mighty puncher from the amateur boxing power-house of Cuba.

Andres Aldama had knocked out all his opponents on his way to the final. Head-guards had yet to be introduced and Leonard recalls: ‘He wasn’t just knocking guys out, he was sending them to hospital. He was so impressive that people were beginning to wonder if I’d win the gold after all.’

Oh ye of little faith.

Sugar was anything but sweet that evening. He put Aldama to the sword, knocking him down twice and inflicting an eight count in the punishing course of racking up his fifth maximum 5-0 points win: ‘I’ll never forget the shock on his face and disbelief in his eyes the first time I floored him. He was supposed to be doing that to me but I beat him up.’

When he recovered Aldama vowed to win his gold four years later — and went on to do so by beating John Mugabi in the Moscow final.

Leonard announced his retirement: ‘That’s my last fight. I’ve achieved my ambition and I’m going back to college to get an education.’

That decision was not driven by the sexual abuse he suffered earlier at the hands of an amateur coach, which he bravely revealed in his recent book. He was concerned for his physical well-being and felt fulfilled as boxer.

‘It seemed like we were fighting every night in Montreal. Maybe there was the odd day off but really so little recovery time. It was hard. I needed a long lie in a hot tub every night and had to go to hospital for my badly swollen hands.’

Then this still-boyish wonder articulated the enormity of the Games: ‘I’d reached what I felt was my ultimate goal. Winning gold for me and my country.

‘The Olympics meant everything to me. Going through them is like nothing else you will ever experience. For those few weeks you are in another world. At that point I couldn’t see how there could ever be anything better.’

We meet again: McKenzie (left) with Leonard and Sportsmaill's boxing correspondent Jeff Powell

We meet again: McKenzie (left) with Leonard and Sportsmaill's boxing correspondent Jeff Powell

McKenzie, his own memories stirred, became emotional: ‘I loved the Olympics. I loved being with our team (little big man Charlie Magri et al). I loved every minute. Even loved losing to this man.’

Leonard smiled: ‘Hey, how many kids you got buddy’

McKenzie blushed: ‘Six.’

Leonard, hugging him again: ‘See, you beat me at that. Me, four.’ There they stood, the twin pillars of the Games. The triumph and the ecstasy in parallel with the simple beauty of taking part.

Leonard: ‘For me it was gold or nothing. I wouldn’t let anything stop me.’

McKenzie: ‘Of course I was trying to win but I was so proud just to be there, boxing for Britain. Always will be.’

It took a sharp dose of economic reality to jolt Leonard into turning pro.

As a handsome Olympic hero he was expecting to fund his new family and his quest for a degree with commercial sponsorship. But the ad-men did not cometh: ‘I suddenly realised that in 1976 corporate America was not ready for a black athlete.

‘Boxing at the time also carried a stigma. It was brutal and mob-related. There was no place for my picture on the cereal box. But it made me accept that I was pre-destined to be a fighter.’

Boxing clever: Leonard (left) beats Limazov Valbry at the Montreal Olympics

Boxing clever: Leonard (left) beats Limazov Valbry at the Montreal Olympics

Not that the transition was easy, not even for this genius of the ring: ‘Amateur boxing is all blazing away, throwing punches almost non-stop. As a young pro you have to learn that it’s about selection of punches — throwing the right punch at the right time for the right reason.

‘It’s physically tougher but at the same time mentally more demanding. You need strategy to set up the opponent.’

The most sensational example of that came in the 1980 re-match with Roberto Duran which followed defeat in their first fight: ‘I changed from standing and fighting him to hitting and moving, hitting and moving.’

After seven rounds of ‘pow-voom-pow-voom’ Leonard taunted Duran by pretending to wind up a right-hand bolo punch only to snap his head back with a stiff left jab.

Throughout, he had been tormenting Duran by dropping his hands and inviting him to hit his chin. One of the toughest — but on this night the most humiliated — of fighters turned his back seconds before the end of the eighth and famously told the referee ‘no mas’.

There was talk of a stomach bug but Leonard knew what had happened and had to smile as he said: ‘What he couldn’t really stomach was being messed about. He was a great fighter but I p****d him off.’

Not that he recommends the tactic to aspiring boxers: ‘Sticking your chin out with your hands hanging down is dangerous. High risk.

Gather round: McKenzie (far left) with his fellow boxers at the Olympics

Gather round: McKenzie (far left) with his fellow boxers at the Olympics

‘Your Naseem Hamed used to do it and I loved how he won that thriller against Kevin Kelley with all those knock downs in Madison Square Garden. But he didn’t have the basics of the game and when he tried it with Marco Antonio Barrera the game was up.’

Leonard also found ways to beat Wilfred Benitez, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns during the golden age of welter-to-middleweight boxing. Sometimes controversially, always brilliantly.

Over lunch in Las Vegas a few days before Ray met Clinton here in LA, we were joined by Hearns’ brother. They reminisced about the first fight, a unanimous decision by which Leonard unified the world welterweight titles.

Then talk turned to the re-match, which many thought Leonard lost but was scored as a draw. John Hearns asked: ‘What did you say to my brother when you whispered in his ear after they announced the result’

Leonard: ‘I told Tommy he won. He asked if I would tell everyone else but I said, “Hell no, it’s not the time”. But I told the world later.’

Hearns: ‘Our family grieved forever after that fight.’

Leonard: ‘Tell them to stop, I love Tommy. Tell him to change it to a win on his record.’

So close: McKenzie (right) lands a punch on Puerto Rico's Ismael Martinez in Montreal

So close: McKenzie (right) lands a punch on Puerto Rico's Ismael Martinez in Montreal

Leonard and McKenzie re-visited not only each other but the galaxy of fights in which one was magnificently engaged and the other watched with admiration from afar.

‘Thank god you didn’t quit after the Games,’ said McKenzie. ‘What a loss to boxing that would have been.’

Later in his career, Leonard made something of a habit of retiring and coming back.

He finally gave up the hard old game for good in 1997, aged 40. McKenzie, a year the elder, hung up the gloves eight years earlier after failing for the second time to win a European title.

Retiring is always a problem for boxers so how do they know when it really is time to go

‘You lose that edge,’ says McKenzie. ‘One day it’s not there. You think you can get it back but you can’t. All over.’

Leonard: ‘The time to stop is when the other guy hits you more than you hit him.’

Do they miss it

‘Yeah,’ says Clinton with a shrug.

‘I don’t miss getting hit,’ says Sugar Ray. ‘But what a time I had. And what a time it was. And what an amazing life it’s given me. I became a celebrity and that’s fine because I enjoy people. I’ve got my foundation which lets me help folk who are struggling. I’m happy. Oh, and I’ve got my golf.’

A warm, generous man, Leonard cut this particular round short as soon as he knew McKenzie had arrived: ‘Don’t worry, Clinton. It wasn’t going well.’

Close friends: Leonard and McKenzie

Close friends: Leonard and McKenzie

He plays off 14, but mostly for the pleasure: ‘Never had a lesson. Never want any more sports coaching.

‘I suppose I was always a natural. And I’ve got the plaque to prove I’m not bad on my day.’

That sign, at the difficult Tour Players Championship course in Summerlin, Las Vegas, records his hole-in-one there: ‘They had it inscribed and up on the clubhouse wall before I finished my round.’

That’s fun. But so was boxing, violent though it could be: ‘Muhammad Ali changed the world but so, in our way, did me and Marvin and Roberto and Tommy. We showed that boxing is not only about the heavyweights.’

Leonard accepts that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are playing their part now but is as disappointed as all of us by their failure thus far to fight each other: ‘Floyd should stop worrying about his unbeaten record. The public don’t give a damn. They want to see the best fight each other.

‘I would give a narrow edge to Mayweather but I wouldn’t bet my house on it because he doesn’t like southpaws and Pacquiao would throw more leather than he’s ever had to face.

‘Don’t be fooled by the trouble Manny’s had with (Juan Manuel) Marquez. Every boxer finds at least one other guy’s style awkward. Even Ali struggled against Ken Norton. In my time, the rest of us had to deal with Tommy being so incredibly tall at the weight.

Would the Money Man and the Pacman have coped with Sugar and the old gang

‘No,’ said McKenzie.

‘Well,’ said Leonard with another smile, ‘that’s always tough to answer but I don’t think so. They’re little guys and they would have needed a step-ladder to reach Tommy.

‘They are very good and have some interesting fights. But we all took on each other. If Mayweather never fights Pacquiao he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

‘I watched Floyd against Miguel Cotto the other night and it was a nice fight. But do you know what it didn’t have that we had

‘The magic.’

Our day in the sun was quite magical, too.

McKenzie dressed snazzily for the occasion in one of his zoot-suit throwbacks to the jazz age. Leonard hurried off the course in his golf gear.

McKenzie does not play golf. He continues to trade on his charisma and (still) fast hands at his gym deep in south London, where he is looking for another rising star while offering personal training services.

Their lives took differing paths but now their history is re-joined. It was a delight to watch them stroll together down memory lane. A privilege to share the moment.

Sport as it forever should be. Olympian.

Neil Lennon almost quit after death threats

Celtic boss Lennon admits he almost quit football after death threat nightmare

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UPDATED:

10:52 GMT, 18 May 2012

Celtic manager Neil Lennon considered quitting the game after threats were made against him.

The Northern Irishman was at the centre of a high-profile court case earlier this year, which saw two men, Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie, jailed for five years for conspiring to assault him by sending parcel bombs to Celtic Park and the club's training ground.

Lennon spoke about his difficult year in an interview with Real Radio's phone-in host Peter Martin, which will be aired on Monday evening.

Worth it: Neil Lennon almost quit football after receiving death threats

Worth it: Neil Lennon almost quit football after receiving death threats

During the trial Lennon told the court he was left 'very disturbed' after learning he was a target, along with other prominent fans of the club.

Lennon's close friend, Paul McBride QC, who was also a target, died suddenly while on a trip to Pakistan in March, days before he was to give evidence at the trial.

The Celtic manager and former player, who was a pall bearer at Mr McBride's funeral in Glasgow, said losing his friend coupled with the stress of the court case made for a 'tough spell'.

He said: 'I had a real difficult time when Paul McBride passed away. And there was a spell where, on the Monday it was Paul's funeral and then on the Tuesday I had to go and give evidence in the court case and that was a real tough, tough spell.

'At times you think: is it worth it You know, all these things that happen to you.'

Tough times: Lennon at the funeral of Paul McBride

Tough times: Lennon at the funeral of Paul McBride

When asked by Mr Martin if he had any moments when he thought about quitting, Lennon replied: 'Yeah. I mean at the end of the day, your personal safety is in jeopardy or you feel it's in jeopardy.

'I was always well briefed by the police and the intelligence officers, so that gave me a lot of comfort through those times but you're just thinking: is it worth living here

'You know, I love Glasgow. I love the environment. It's been my home for a long, long time. But there is an element to it that lets the city down, you know, lets the country down and the sooner we can eradicate that … but it's got to come from the home.

'It's got to come from the families and it's all right pointing the finger at schools and this, that and the other, (but) you know as parents we have a responsibility to bring your kids up in the right way.'

Clinton McKenzie: Frank Warren has gone back to the Hall of fame

Warren's gone back to the Hall of fame

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UPDATED:

19:21 GMT, 27 April 2012

Frank Warren's show on Saturday, although missing Nathan Cleverly, is the first back at the Royal Albert Hall since 1999 when objections from local residents closed the doors.

You have to admire Warren for taking boxing back to one of its traditional homes.

Highlight: Clinton McKenzie takes on Antonio Guinaldo at the Royal Albert Hall

Highlight: Clinton McKenzie takes on Antonio Guinaldo at the Royal Albert Hall

I fought eight times at the Albert Hall and had some mixed results, but it was always a wonderful venue.

It was the gladiatorial feel of the arena, climbing the steps from the dressing rooms below that always seemed cramped and cold, nothing like the marvellous, palatial home of the Proms above.

It was my favourite place to box – I first appeared there in 1977 against George McGurk and won my European title there in 1981, defeating Antonio Guinaldo.

I wish I could write I was invicible there, but I lost as many times as I won and so it's not a venue that always brought me the best of luck.

But winning the European light-welterweight title there was the highlight of my career.

Leon McKenzie jailed over fake letters to police over speeding

Ex-Premier League striker McKenzie jailed over fake letters to police in bid to dodge speeding convictions

Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie has been sent to prison for six months for sending bogus letters to avoid speeding convictions.

McKenzie, who played for Norwich in the top-flight, was jailed at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday after admitting six charges of attempting to dodge speeding fines between 2008 and 2010.

It comes after McKenzie revealed to Sportsmail in December that he attempted to commit suicide towards the end of this career after suffering from depression.

Jailed: Leon McKenzie arrives at Northampton Crown Court for sentencing

Jailed: Leon McKenzie arrives at Northampton Crown Court for sentencing

The 33-year-old was sentenced after admitting sending the letters to Northamptonshire police.

The letters – that claimed to be from a fictional garage in London – said his car was off the road when he was caught speeding.

Claire Howell, prosecuting last year, said that each time McKenzie received a notice of intended prosecution, he sent a letter claiming mechanics were working on his car when it was flashed by speed cameras.

He was supported in court by his uncle – the former world boxing champion Duke McKenzie, former So Solid Crew rapper MC Harvey and PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle.

Judge Richard Bray said: 'A custodial sentence is necessary for this type of offence which strikes right at the heart of justice. It would completely send out the wrong message if I did not hand out a custodial sentence.'

McKenzie, who retired from professional football in December, was also handed a 18-month driving ban.

On his attempted suicide, McKenzie told Sportsmail: 'I was in a place where I didn't want to be and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I wanted to end it, to end the pain. I got a bottle of Jack Daniel's, a load of sleeping pills and anti-inflammatories and must have knocked back 40 tablets.'