EXCLUSIVE: Irish prospect Stephen McKenna talks early career, working with Freddie Roach
Irish amateur star Stephen McKenna is now four fights into his professional career. McKenna joined younger brother Aaron by signing a promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions and a management deal with Sheer Management.
A move across the Atlantic has seen McKenna, live, train and fight in America.
Four wins in his first year as a pro and all by stoppage, McKenna tells World Boxing News he is happy with how his debut year has turned out.
“Yeah it was a great debut year,” McKenna told World Boxing News. “I was happy with my performances.
My first four fights have gone well with KO’s and it would be nice to keep this tradition going. I always prepare to go the distance but my priority is always to win by KO.”
McKenna was due back in the ring in April but as boxing in most parts of the world is scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, McKenna will have to wait a while until he gets back into action.
“Unfortunately my fight now has been postponed with the coronavirus,” McKenna explained. “Of course it is very disappointing.
“I am disappointed but mentally I am very strong and will focus now on a new date. All things going well I will have a fight date hopefully sometime in June. By then I intend to keep the ball rolling with another KO.”
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With McKenna moving full time to the States, it is no surprise that all four of his fights have taken place in America, McKenna feels he is seeing the benefits of the move Stateside.
“It’s been hugely beneficial to me fighting over here in the USA. I have gained great experience since being here and sparred with a lot of great fighters like Vasyl Lomachenko and I was also the main sparring partner for Jose Ramirez for his fight against Maurice Hooker. Los Angeles is the place to be if I want to make it to the top.
“It’s a great place to be everything is at your doorstep and all the top fighters are here,” he added. “It is a tough environment that requires a lot of hard work and dedication that maybe wouldn’t suit fighters that aren’t prepared to put the hard work in, this is certainly a place to serve your apprenticeship if you want to make it to the top. There is no hiding place in LA!”
The McKenna brothers are the latest Irish boxers to start and make their careers in America, former world champions Steve Collins and Andy Lee done just that. More recently Michael Conlan and Jason Quigley have also gone down this route.
“This would be a great chapter to include in any book (on Irish boxing).” McKenna said. “It would be a very exciting story about the McKenna brothers on how they ended up in Los Angeles. Andy Lee and Steve Collins where very successful in America and made it to world championship glory, I think we can do the same.”
Being based in California, most of McKenna’s fights have taken place on the west coast of America but he has his eyes set on featuring on the east coast in some of the cities with large Irish populations.
“Right now I will be fighting in the USA as I build up my career,” McKenna said.”Down the line, I would love to fight back in Ireland.
“The dream would be to fight back in Ireland for a world title. I would also love to fight on the east coast of America if that opportunity ever arises.
“I have massive Irish support in that area and would definitely draw a big following. Later on down the road, I can see both me and my brother filling out arenas on the east coast of America and in Ireland.”
Now training with legendary coach Freddie Roach, McKenna feels he is learning every day.
“Everything has been going great working with Freddie Roach,” he said. “Freddie is a legendary trainer. He has trained a lot of champions with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.
“To be working with him will improve me a lot and every day I go into the gym I am learning from him.
“Myself and Freddie have bonded really quickly, he has a very special gift with being able to connect with his fighters in a unique way, he is the man to bring me to the top.”
Despite being several thousand miles away from home, McKenna has both his dad and brother to keep him company.
“Yeah having my brother and dad over here is a great help. We push each other to the highest levels. My father coordinates all the aerobic sessions and keeps us in top condition, we both have great engines. We are a great team.”
McKenna is looking forward to the year ahead.
“I want to be fighting in 10 round fights and pushing to be in the top 15 in the world. I will keep working hard and my ambition would be to make my presence felt very strongly in the 140-pound division. Hard work is the key.”
Mick Kane is a Staff Writer for World Boxing News. Follow Mick on Twitter @MickKaneMMA