OVILL McKENZIE has never had things easy. Last year he travelled to Argentina on two weeks notice and fought IBF cruiserweight champion Victor Ramirez to a draw, despite appearing to get the better of the action. He then picked up an ankle injury, scuppering his vacant European title fight with Dmytro Kucher. Now, however, he has a huge opportunity against Marco Huck on September 24, and he can’t wait.
You must be over the moon to get such a big opportunity.
Yeah, I’m absolutely over the moon with it, I’m in such a good place. I’m on top of the world, I couldn’t believe I got this chance, it’s great news.
Do you know how the negotiations went? How much involvement did you have?
I didn’t know too much about it really, I thought I was in line to fight for the British title and this just come out of the blue. It was a big surprise when I got the call and I just jumped at it straight away. Marco [Huck] and his team could have rung me just two or three weeks before and I still would have said yes but they’ve given me plenty of notice.
Is this the biggest opportunity of your career?
This is the biggest yes. It’s not like going to Argentina, it’s a fair venue I think and this is the biggest one for me. Marco Huck is a true champion, Ramirez was a paper champion, he didn’t win that belt it was given to him. I call people like that paper champions. For me, Huck’s a true champion. It’s a massive opportunity, if I beat Huck it would put me on the map.
How is the ankle after the injury?
It’s all good, I got the all clear.
It must have been disappointing to miss out on the European title fight against Dmytro Kucher.
It was because the European title is a good title, but I feel like this was meant to be. It was a vacant title though and like I said, if I had won I’d be a paper champion! [laughs] I think it’s destiny though, everything for a reason. Enzo [Maccarinelli] took the fight and he got stopped in a round.
Does this feel like a reward for the perseverance you’ve shown in your career, taking tough fights on short notice and the like?
It is a reward, definitely. I’m 37 in November, I think this is what I deserve. It’s karma, I just think this is my role. I never know who I’m going to fight, what the next step will be but this is great, this is the top of my career and this ticks all the boxes. I’ve been calling out Huck for some time, but he never said anything and this just came out the blue! I was thinking maybe I could get a rematch with Ramirez and then I’d fight Kucher and get that European belt off him but this turned up and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.
Now that you’ve had time to reflect on the Ramirez fight, what are your thoughts? Do you still think you won?
I don’t think I won, I know I did. I know I won, Huck said I won, Ramirez told me I won on the night before the announcement of the result. My fans know I won, most people in the world know I won, I just didn’t get the decision. I’m past it now, but it’s still in the back of my head because it was a world title. It will always be in the back of my head, but we’ll work on Huck now, and maybe I’ll get a chance at [Denis] Lebedev because he has the belt now.
So you feel a win over Huck would launch you into fights with the likes of Lebedev.
Yes, Lebedev’s on the same level as Huck. Hopefully everything goes to plan and I beat Huck, then I’ll go after Lebedev because he has something of mine, that belt belongs to me.
What was the experience like in Argentina?
The moment we reached the hotel we were supposed to be staying in, one of the trainers with us got robbed. They took his bag with his laptop and his phone and his glasses, we hadn’t even checked in!
Then we ran out into the street trying to find the robber, we couldn’t find him so we marched back in and told them we’re going to leave the hotel. Then on the way to the fight, we were travelling two hours on some road in pitch darkness, no street lights, nothing. The taxi driver was laughing and told us he’d never been to the place and he’s from Argentina. When we got to the venue there was riot police there with guns and we were like “woah.” I had four mates from Derby who came to watch me, but when I got in the ring I saw them and they weren’t cheering or anything, they were sat there like when a school teacher told you to sit down and not move. I went over at another time and told them they could come in our van when we went but they acted like they didn’t know me! They even turned away! [laughs] They didn’t want people to know they were from England, it was crazy. The moment I blew their cover, the Argentinian crowd were shouting “British w*****s!”
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