Stevie McKenna says nickname came from Thomas Hearns comparison in the gym
U.K fight fans get treated to a second sighting of Irish KO king Stevie McKenna tomorrow night when the 23 year old ring Hitman stars in promoter Mick Hennessy’s show, live and exclusive on free-to-air Channel 5.
Hailing from Smithsborough, Monaghan – the same county that gave us ‘Clones Cyclone’ Barry McGuigan and Mike Tyson slayer Kevin McBride – California-based Stevie has seen ‘the full ten’ tolled over all five opponents since his pro premiere back in April 2019. Four victims folded in the first round, the other was culled for the count just 29 seconds into round two.
‘People at the US gyms, nicknamed me ‘The Hitman’ after watching me spar. They said I was tall but exciting, just like Tommy Hearns,’ claims the lofty 6ft welterweight who features on the show courtesy of Sheer Sports.
‘I think it first became apparent that I was blessed with real natural power when I started fighting at Under 18 level. I started to hurt a lot of guys and administered many standing counts and stoppages.
‘My height at the weight certainly helps, Like Hearns, I use my reach to keep the opposition at arm’s distance and I can keep generate serious leverage. Since relocating to the US two years ago, I feel I’m getting stronger and stronger every single camp. Years of hard work has also played its part.
‘I’ve a vicious overhand right which has hurt a lot of people but I’ve plenty of selection; any wee shot I land. I punch very hard with both arms and try to take opponent’s heads off with every punch I throw.
‘Outside the ring, I’m very humble and respectful. Obviously, you hope both fighters get out of the ring safely but I have to confess that a brutal knockout leaves me buzzing. I’ve not left anyone badly unconscious. The one’s that have been down for minutes have usually been ‘done’ by body shots.’
And savage Stevie is far from a ‘one trick pony’. Numerous Irish amateur titles, a gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games plus a silver at the 2015 European Youth meet (both as a 5ft 8in light-flyweight!) strongly suggest ‘The Hitman’ carries the skill set to supplement his violence.
Alongside younger brother Aaron and father Fergal (his co-coach), Stevie is based in Woodland Hills, California but is presently isolated in his homeland due to the Covid travel embargo. Previously schooled by three-time Ring Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia, he is now mentored by legendary Hall of Fame fight professor Freddie Roach at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood, where he profits from sparring of the highest grade.
He says: ‘I always fully prepare to go the distance. Fans haven’t seen this yet because my pro fights have been so short but I never tire in sparring with the likes of (WBO/WBC super-lightweight boss) Jose Ramirez and (two-time world title challenger) Jose Zapeda. Those spars are far, far tougher than being in a fight. That’s where the learning happens. So any time I can deliver a quick knockout on fight night, I’m gonna take it.
‘I even sparred Vasyl Lomachenko. He needed southpaw opposition for his fight against Jose Pedraza so I pretended to be southpaw just to secure the spar! I did five rounds with ‘Loma’ – all southpaw – and it took him at least the first three to figure me out. I’m quite ambidextrous and like to switch, anyway. That was an unbelievable experience.’
Presently stranded on the European side of the drink, the Brothers McKenna are wisely utilising their enforced ostracism to expand their UK fan base.
‘Whilst there’s the travel ban, I want to get as many fights and as much exposure in the UK as possible. It’s great that Mick Hennessy is providing me with back-to-back fights this month, live on Channel Five so the whole of Britain and Ireland can see me. I’m happy to fight every month if I get the chance,’ says Mogadon man Stevie whose five fight paid career has totalled less than 11 minutes!
‘In time, I’ll fight for whatever title my team believes is best. Though I hold an Irish passport, Dad’s from Derry so I’m eligible for the British. I won a Commonwealth Youth Games gold medal as an amateur and The Irish and European belts also appeal. The leading British and Irish guys need to keep an eye out for me.’
British boxing buffs got a fleeting glimpse of McKenna’s combustible ring manner when he bombed out Glasgow’s usually durable Gary McGuire in just 73 seconds at a silent production studio in South Kirkby last September.
‘It was different to what I’ve become used to but I boxed all around the world in amateur tournaments with very sparse crowds. I actually enjoy it. I can hear very shot thud home, hear every wince from my opponent!’ he quips.
And ‘The Hitman’ promises to re-light the touch paper when he resurfaces against Plymouth’s experienced Des Newton this Friday.
‘I’ve been preparing under my dad in a gym at the back of our house. It has a full size ring, a treadmill, all the equipment we require. We’ve had guys come to us for sparring and we’ve also been over to Dublin,’ disclosed McKenna who is also scheduled to appear on promoter Hennessy’s Channel 5 the following week on the undercard of the British Light-Heavyweight title clash between Shakan Pitters and Craig Richards.
‘Everything is spot on for another explosive performance. Fireworks, live on Five! I think UK fans will enjoy my exciting style; old school boxing where the best want to meet the best. I intend to put on a spectacular show every time.’