Aaron McKenna Aims To Be Boxing's Next Irish Superstar


By Thomas Gerbasi

Being patient about anything at the age of 18 is a Herculean task at best. Now imagine being told that your professional boxing debut, the night you’ve always dreamed of – and in the big room at Madison Square Garden, no less – is not happening.

That was the test issued to former Irish amateur star Aaron McKenna on December 2, when Victor Eddy Gaytan was pulled from their fight on the Sadam Ali-Miguel Cotto undercard due to licensing issues.

On the day of the fight.

“Obviously, it was hard enough to take, but I just had to take it on the chin,” said McKenna, who got some good news almost as soon as the bad news was issued, as his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, got him on their card a week later in Las Vegas. All was well again, if not for the fact that now he had to maintain his weight for six more days and keep his mind right on the way back to the west coast.

“I had to refocus myself and then just focus on that fight,” he said. “I had to get myself mentally back in shape, so I focused on that and didn’t worry too much about it.”

Yeah, he’s just 18.

“That’s part of the job that you’re in,” said McKenna. “You have to be ready for these things. This is boxing, anything can happen, so you have to be ready and you have to always stay in shape. Not too many people can say that they weighed in in New York and Vegas in one week, especially at 18 years old.”


This is true, and if you’re wondering, Mr. McKenna won that pro debut in Vegas, taking a shutout four-round decision over 1-0 Travis Conley. Now the journey has finally started and he can start looking ahead, starting with his Friday bout against Mexico’s Adolfo Caro on the Ronny Rios-Azat Hovhannisyan undercard in Costa Mesa.

“It’s good to get the first one over,” he said. “Now the next one should be a lot easier. It’s always good to have the first one out of the way and all I’m thinking about is training for the next fight and getting myself ready. I always stay in shape and always stay prepared for everything, and I’m just looking forward to my next fight.”

There is a buzz about the teenage welterweight, who made the long trip from County Monaghan to Southern California to evolve his craft. Note that I didn’t say learn his craft, as his amateur career proves that he did leave the Emerald Isle as one of the top talents in the sport. And that doesn’t just come from wins and medals, but from experience, and McKenna has plenty of it.

“Since I was six years of age, all I’ve ever been doing is boxing,” he said. “I’m a very experienced amateur with 161 fights, I’ve been to Russia six times, I’ve won European gold medals, European junior silver and last year in the mini-worlds I won a gold medal and beat a world champion in the semifinals. And I beat a Russian in Russia. I’ve had a lot of experience and I’m well used to it now.”

But to get to the next level in the pros, McKenna admits that he had to leave home to begin that quest. And Los Angeles was clearly the place to be for him.

“If you’re gonna make it as a professional boxer, here’s the place to make it,” he said. “America has all the top boxers, everyone comes to America, and you need to hit the big time here. And L.A. is the sparring capital of the world and boxing capital of the world. I’ve been sparring all over the place, sparring with Alexis Rocha in Santa Ana, and the other day I was sparring with Fabian Maidana. And that’s why I’m here.”

It’s the education you don’t see until fight night, and if it’s done right, you will see McKenna add new wrinkles to his game with each passing bout. He’s already seen the difference since making the move.
“Over here, they’re really good,” he said. “Everyone I’ve sparred here, they’re all over like 15-0 and very experienced, and you can tell the difference in the pro style. I’m learning a lot. You’ve got to find the shots and turn, settle down and let them go.”

It’s the next step for several of the finest Irish boxers, with Jason Quigley and Mick Conlan both spending time in the States before returning to Europe and Katie Taylor also opting to train in the U.S. Add in Paddy Barnes and John Joe Nevin, and it’s clear that the younger generation’s Irish Invasion is well on its way.

“Everyone in Ireland goes through the High Performance program,” said McKenna, whose older brothers Stephen and Gary have also left a positive mark on Irish boxing. “We were all in the same program – Jason Quigley, Michael Conlan – and we’re all doing well now that we’re in the pro game. The training is starting to show.”

And whether at home or abroad, these up and comers have their people behind them, with a mixed martial arts star showing them just what’s possible for them while representing their country.

“There are millions of Irish-Americans, so it’s very important to get the Irish behind you,” McKenna said. “The Irish fans are the best in the world, and it’s great to have them behind you roaring and cheering for you. It makes a big difference to have that crowd and atmosphere. Look at Conor McGregor and all the fans that he’s got. Half the world knows about him and everyone in Ireland’s behind him.

“That’s what I want,” he continues. “I want to be fighting in places like New York and Boston, where there are loads of Irish and to have them all behind me, big crowds cheering for me.”

If McKenna reaches his ultimate goal, that will be a done deal.

“My dream is to become a world champion and to be Ireland’s greatest ever boxer. This is what I want to do and this is what I love. That’s why I’m in the sport.”

Tags: Aaron McKenna image  
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Taxman2000 on 03-07-2018

[QUOTE=BIGPOPPAPUMP;18550799]By Thomas Gerbasi - Being patient about anything at the age of 18 is a Herculean task at best. Now imagine being told that your professional boxing debut, the night you've always dreamed of and in the big room at…

Comment by Vegemil on 03-07-2018

Lol @ "I beat a Russian in Russia" under his accomplishments.

Comment by Taxman2000 on 03-07-2018

[QUOTE=BIGPOPPAPUMP;18550799]By Thomas Gerbasi - Being patient about anything at the age of 18 is a Herculean task at best. Now imagine being told that your professional boxing debut, the night you've always dreamed of and in the big room at…

Comment by Letmaku on 03-07-2018

That's my boy. Btw Irish is the name of my girl in college.

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (4)
Top Headlines Photos: Cecilia Braekhus Opens School in Uganda Warren 'Fighting For Revenge' in Title Clash on Pacquiao-Broner Gausha 'To Punish' Hernandez on Saturday's Charlo Card Korobov's Manager: This Is A Better Fight Than Charlo-Monroe Baysangurov and AmirKhanyan Headline Show in Kazan Hearn: DAZN wants Canelo to Fight Jacobs and GGG Next Year Chisora Vows To Pounce on Whyte, Take Him To War Showtime To Air Whyte-Chisora Rematch Live From London Barthelemy Could See Pacquiao Stopping Broner in Six Rounds Hearn: Deontay Wilder Not a PPV Star; Talks With His Team Better Jacobs: I'll Move Up To 168 To Fight Canelo; Doesn't Matter To Me Whyte Brushes Off Joshua's Prediction of Chisora Victory Warrington: I Don't View Frampton as Elite, Has Weaknesses Martin Murray Does Not Plan To Rebuild Again if He Loses Povetkin Interested in Facing Whyte or Chisora in 2019 De La Hoya: Canelo Must KO Golovkin in Trilogy, No Decision David Price is Desperate To Taste Victory Again Jermell Charlo Preps For Harrison With a Brooklyn State of Mind De La Hoya: Canelo's KO Opens Doors To New Opponents At 168 Referee Having Sleepless Nights Over Stevenson Outcome David Lemieux Will Fight Next at 168-Pounds, Says Estephan Photos: Manny Pacquiao Celebrates, Throws 40th Birthday Bash David Benavidez: I'm Hungrier Than Ever, More Motivated Dana White Reacts To De La Hoya's Challenge To Fight on May 4 Badou Jack vs. Marcus Browne Finalized For Pacquiao-Broner Photos: Pacquiao, Birthday Aside, Putting in Work For Broner Claressa Shields - BWAA's 2018 Female Fighter of the Year Joshua-Miller At MSG Could Bring Khan-Brook To Wembley 4/13 Korobov: Charlo Just Saying It, He Should Prove It In The Ring Anthony Joshua Backs Dereck Chisora To 'Whoop' Dillian Whyte News: Lolenga Mock, Shohjahon Ergashev, Frampton-Warrington Jon Fernandez Bounces Back With TKO Win in Ponferrada, Spain Jaime Munguia vs. Takeshi Inoue - Undercard is Revealed WBC To Fully Investigate Monroe's Use of Testosterone Booster Jermall Charlo vs. Matt Korobov Set Down, Monroe Out Harrison Says Stamina Issues Are Solved as Charlo Fight Nears Wilder: Joshua Skipped Fury Fight To Avoid 'Hard Questions' Jermall Charlo: Canelo is Scared. Where Are You At, Cinnamon? Sulaiman: I'm Certain Joshua Will Eventually Fight For WBC Title Lamont Roach Ready For Title Shot After Beating Mercado

Latest Active Forum Threads