From the ‘square jungle’ to Great Britain’s cold streets Derek ‘Teacher’ McKenzie refuses to stop fighting
If there is one thing about Guyana worth bragging about, it is our rich boxing history. There are a few household names that have contributed to this legacy and many will immediately remember seeing or hearing of the feats of such pugilists as Patrick Forde and Lennox Blackmore. Then there is Reginald Forde, Vernon Lewis, Kenny Bristol and the many other world beaters that have etched their names into local annuls of history.
The above names are easily remembered but how many could honestly admit to knowing Derek `Teacher’ McKenzie, a boxing stalwart of the late seventies and early eighties. He was born on July 20, 1957 and was better known as ‘the fighting teacher’ a sobriquet he earned from his professional engagement as a school teacher. The uninitiated might have even surmised that he might have earned the nickname due to his activities in the sport where his slick movements taught many of his adversaries a thing or two in the fistic sport.
McKenzie fought during the era when purses ranged from just around five dollars to fifteen, depending on one’s status. His contemporaries included Calvin `Valdez’ Marcus, one of Andrew ‘Sixhead’ Lewis uncles. He also fought among Desmond `Fat boy’ Callender, who really was a boxer with well toned physique and one just wondered who the practical joker was that plastered such a sobriquet on him.
Then there was Keith `Creature’ Adams, who could not have been faulted for such a nickname as was Clifford `Piggy’ Griffith. Maxie ‘Street fighter’ Sergeant was far more active, and successful with his street brawls thus his nickname but the fellow did turn in some action packed affairs whenever he ducked into the ‘square jungle.’ McKenzie defeated them all.
One of his most memorable bouts is his 15 rounds shindig with Commonwealth Gold medalist, Winfield Braithwaite for the junior welterweight title of Guyana. At the end of the fight, the judges could not distinguish any significant skill deficiency among the two pugilists and rightly called it a draw.
The gangly fighter went on to lose to Michael Parsons and David Noel of Trinidad and Tobago before earning a fight against a Nigerian, Obisia Nwankpa, on November 7 1980, for the British Empire Junior welterweight title. He was knocked out in the second round and stayed in that country, engaging in active combat during 1982-1983. The ‘Teacher’ retired in 1986 after amassing a record of 27 fights, 14 wins, 12 losses and one draw.
Kaieteur Sport recently tracked down the former stalwart and was informed that he has been enduring fluctuating fortunes in the United Kingdom and resides in one of the shelters in the UK. Our contact even went the extra mile to send a previously snapped photo of the former boxing stalwart. In almost every country our stalwarts are either enjoying life or biding their time until something positive or negative changes their situation. Whatever happens, they remain a rich part of our sports history and we ought to salute them.