East End hardman Lenny McLean was a notorious brawler and friend of gangsters – and he went on to became a cult figure in Britain and bagged roles in television series and films
Image: Peter Brooker/REX/Shutterstock)
Lenny McLean earned a reputation as “Britain’s hardest man” – and for good reason.
The 20-stone tough nut had thousands of unlicensed boxing fights in his life and befriended the fearsome Kray twins.
There was even a film, aptly named The Guv’nor, made about Lenny’s life seen through the eyes of his son Jamie.
But who was the hard man from Hoxton who became a notorious brawler?
Lenny grew up in the London neighborhood in the 1950s when it was one of the most deprived areas of the city.
His father died when Lenny was young and an abusive stepfather took his place.
Aware of what was happening, Lenny’s great-uncle stepped in and threatened to kill his legal guardian for the abuse he was giving out.
HMP Jail Banter /Youtube)
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It was at this point that Lenny realized the power of brute force.
Eventually, he fell into a life of crime when rubbing shoulders with London’s criminal underworld.
Lenny became a nightclub enforcer and was feared around the city.
It was during this time that he reportedly met and befriended the Kray twins.
At the time Ronnie and Reggie Kray were fearsome gangsters well known for their role in organized crime in London.
Lenny couldn’t escape the law forever and as a teenager he was caught and arrested for petty crimes, serving 18 months inside.
Lenny McLean – The Guvnor /Youtube)
After his release he lost his first legitimate job after being sacked for beating up his boss on a construction site.
This was how Lenny eventually got into bare-knuckle fighting which became his career and how he became known around the country.
He couldn’t become a licensed boxer due to his violent past and criminal record.
But when Frank Warren’s National Boxing Council formed in 1970 it offered underground fighters in Britain the chance to step foot inside the rink.
Lenny excelled in it and at one stage was said to weigh 20 stone and went on to win more than 3,000 fights.
There is even a story that says Lenny called out some of the hardest boxers in the world at the time including the great Muhammad Ali, but nothing ever came of it.
THE GUVNOR: With True Crime Writer Lee Wortley/Youtube)
Kelly, Lenny’s daughter, wrote a book about her father titled: My dad; The Guv’ner.
In it she recalls her volatile relationship with her dad and says doctors believe he likely suffered from bipolar disorder.
she told The Mirror in 2018: “There were times I hated him and I looked at him like he was a bully.
“It got to the stage where I couldn’t even laugh at his jokes.
“We did live in fear of him, but I didn’t understand he had this condition.
“I wish he was here now so I could get him some help. I don’t think I enjoyed life.
“He always looked like he had the world on his shoulders.”
Kelly added that when Lenny won fights he would come home with the prize money and throw it all into the air as if it were confetti.
During his lifetime Lenny became a cult-like figure and received invitations to get involved in acting.
He was also asked to be the ‘fixer’, or bodyguard, of the cast of EastEnders.
Lenny eventually fell into acting after being asked to “mind” the cast of EastEnders.
He starred in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 crime thriller Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, cementing his status as a legendary figure.
It was during the filming of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that Lenny fell ill in what was later diagnosed as lung cancer.
He died shortly afterwards on July 28, 1998, a month before the film’s release.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.