A legendary lightweight boxer from the Capital has died at the age of 68 after suffering from cancer.
Malcolm McKenzie’s potential was first recognised in his native Leith when Bill Morrison, an official at Scotland’s oldest and most decorated boxing club, Leith Victoria, saw him in a street fight.
Coach Jock Stevenson then honed that raw prowess into a champion who would win 11 consecutive titles at different weights.
McKenzie was born into a boxing family; his dad was an amateur, while his younger cousin, Tom Imrie, claimed gold in the light-middleweight division at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
Such was the explosive nature of McKenzie’s power, he set a record in 1959 that remains unequalled when he won two bouts that lasted a total of 50 seconds and gave him the junior eastern bantamweight title.
When his coach left Leith Victoria to join the new Granton-based Buccleuch club, McKenzie followed and soon became embroiled in a rivalry that would go down in boxing history.
He and southpaw Dick McTaggart – a 1956 Olympic gold medallist – became household names in an era where amateur boxing featured regularly on TV.
McKenzie and McTaggart clashed a number of times, with the Leith boxer once coming within a second of knocking out his opponent, who was recognised as Scotland’s greatest amateur.
Speaking to the Evening News in 2003, McKenzie recalled: “It was back in 1961 at Hamilton town hall when I dropped Dick with a peach of a left hook. He had beaten me four times before, but I was convinced he wouldn’t rise from that punch.
“But not only did McTaggart get up but he went on to outpoint me – the guy was simply the best amateur boxer Scotland ever produced.”
After further success in the amateur ranks, McKenzie turned professional, a move which turned out to be misguided. He stepped into the ring for just nine paid fights and suffered a sound beating at the hands of Londoner Vic Andreti.
In the mid-1990s, McKenzie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In the Evening News in 2002, he told how his symptoms had almost disappeared after taking part in a drug trial.
He said: “I had all the same symptoms as Muhammad Ali – constant limb tremors related to the brain damage I suffered, especially as a pro boxer. Now I feel vigorous and alert – I’m a new man.”
After the ring he turned to business interests which kept him financially comfortable.
He died on Sunday and is survived by his ex-wife Audrey and children.