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28th Jul 2018

From a small Monaghan village with two pubs and a shop to fighting for Oscar De La Hoya

Fans will be able to watch Aaron McKenna's next fight live for free on Facebook

Ben Kiely

Aaron McKenna isn’t short of ambition.

Monaghan’s Aaron McKenna started boxing at six, joined the pro ranks at 18 and by the time of his 21st birthday, he wants to be the 147 lb champion of the world. He has two years left to reach this target, but it looks like he has the promotional backing to make that dream a reality.

Five months after signing with Golden Boy Promotions, he is set to have his fifth pro fight. Oscar De La Hoya specifically requested the August 11 bout be broadcast live on Golden Boy’s Facebook page so that Irish audiences could tune in.

With three of the four wins on his pristine professional record coming by way of knockout, this one is not to be missed. McKenna loves boxing and, as he told SportsJOE, there’s one particular part of pugilism that he enjoys above everything else.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to land a shot on someone’s chin or temple and for them to go down.”

Old School

McKenna hails from Smithboro, roughly the midway point between Clones and Monaghan Town. The hotshot describes it as a small village with two pubs and one shop, but it’s also home to Old School Boxing Club, which has been home to the likes of Barry McGuigan, Kevin McBride and, of course, a certain man from a famous fighting clan that’s taking the States by storm.

“A few weeks after my brothers started boxing, I joined and went from there. I started boxing when I was six. So I was very young to start and I had 40-50 exhibition fights before I was even 11. I just love boxing. Once I started boxing, I just fell in love with it.”

“When I was younger I did boxing and Gaelic football at the same time. When boxing got real serious, I quit Gaelic. Ever since I was about 10, 11 or 12, boxing got really serious because the championships were at that age.”

Aaron McKenna fight stream

Former heavyweight Kevin McBride is a close family friend of the McKennas. However, Aaron’s biggest boxing idol was actually retired by ‘The Clones Colossus’ in 2005. It was that air of intimidation ‘Iron Mike’ had inside the ring that McKenna draws inspiration from.

“I’d go home and watch old clips of Mike Tyson. I always liked his style and attitude in the ring. The way he would psych his opponents out and he’d have them beaten before he’d get in the ring. That’s something that I would try to do in the ring. I just remain focused, look him straight in the eye, don’t flinch and just imagine what I’m going to do to him. Most of them don’t look me in the eye, they’d look away.”

Once a pro, always a pro

McKenna had made his mind up by 16 that he wanted to turn pro. To him, this move was a no-brainer. Although he had quite an impressive amateur career, he knew the pro ranks was where he would really shine.

“My style has always been more suited to the pros. Three rounds, for me, isn’t enough. I’m the same in the last round as I am in the first round. 10 and 12 rounds suit me far more because in the amateur game, if you’re trying to qualify for the Olympics and you got a cut, that’s you out. That’s your Olympic dreams gone. By that time as a pro, you’d have 10-15 fights. My style is very aggressive. The Mexicans and Americans have took to my style, they really like it.”

Aaron McKenna fight stream

Iron sharpens iron

McKenna has been traveling to the USA to train for the last three years, but when he turned pro in 2017, he made decided to make a permanent move with his father Fergal as his trainer. His older brother Stevie recently relocated stateside too. In his own words, they’re good company for each other, especially when it comes to training.

“Yeah, with my brother sometimes the sparrring would get hot, but that’s good. That’s when we know we’re razor sharp. It’s great to have my brother over training alongside me. We’re competitive with each other, we push each other on, we run and do our strength and conditioning together and we box with each other every day.”

When he’s not slugging it out with his sibling, he’s practicing with some elite boxers. McKenna has been sparring with the likes of former IBO Lightweight and IBF Pan Pacific Light Welterweight champion Lenny Zappavigna, Fabian Maidana, brother of Floyd Mayweather rival Marcos, and former IBF light welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets.

With training partners like that, he has no option but to stay razor-sharp.

Feature image credit: WBC