‘Britain’s hardest man’ had ‘3,000’ fights and was friends with the Krays

Putting a boxer in a coma, being friends with the Kray twins and even starring in a Guy Ritchie film – this is the incredible story of "Britain's hardest man" Lenny McLean.

The fearsome brawler took part in thousands of unlicensed boxing fights during a life of fighting, crime and acting.

But his path to violence ultimately started as a youngster growing up in one of the most deprived London neighbourhoods in the 50s – Hoxton.

Lenny's dad died while he was young, meaning an abusive stepfather took his place. It wasn't until his great-uncle stepped in and threatened to kill his legal guardian that the youngster started to admire the power of the fist.

At first, this violence took him down the wrong path.

He started to rub shoulders with figures in London’s criminal underworld and became a feared nightclub enforcer while even reportedly becoming a friend of the Kray twins.

Still in his teens, Lenny was caught and arrested for petty crimes and served 18 months in prison.

His first legitimate job since his release was short-lived after he beat up his boss on a construction site which, unsurprisingly, got him the sack.

It was then that he found the path he is best known for – his bare-knuckle fighting career.

Lenny's violent past and lengthy criminal record prevented him from becoming a licensed boxer. But the formation of Frank Warren's National Boxing Council in 1970 allowed him and other tough underground fighters in the UK to step foot in a rink.

Fuelled by the rage he felt over his abusive childhood, he claimed at one point to weigh 20 stone and to have defeated over 3,000 opponents.

He even supposedly called out some of the greatest boxers at the time, including Muhammad Ali, but nothing materialised.

Lenny's daughter, Kelly, recalled her father's temperamental nature in her book "My dad; The Guv'ner'

She spoke about how he when he had won his fights he’d come home with a wad of cash and throw it in the air like confetti.

She remembers how he once put opponent Brian “The Mad Gypsy” Bradshaw in a coma but visited him in hospital days later.

Kelly told The Mirror: “When he walked on to the ward and saw him, Dad was completely gutted.

“He kept visiting him from that day forward and they stayed friends.

“But I think from an early age I realised people feared my dad. We didn’t have a normal upbringing.”

Even when Lenny tried to get on the straight and narrow, with the family buying a newsagents in the late 80s, his violent streaks came out.

He once hurled the till at the head of a man who said he had short changed him – by a penny.

McLean described his family as his "rock," whose existence helped him to reject a life solely devoted to crime, and for whom he maintained some self-control during his fights.

Kelly believes her dad had a version of bipolar disorder, after she too was diganosed with it.

She said: “I wish he was here now so I could get him some help. I don’t think he enjoyed life. He always looked like he had the world on his shoulders.”

Lenny eventually became a cult figure and fell into acting after being asked to “mind” the cast of EastEnders.

This kickstarted his carer as an actor and he stared in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 crime thriller Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

He died in July later that year of terminal lung cancer.

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