Monaghan’s Gary McKenna has grown up and settled into a weight, and is now ready to stake his claim as one of the top fighters of Irish boxing’s ‘next’ generation
Ahead of an assault on the changing Irish scene early next year, the Ulster lightweight will first try his glove at the World University Championships in Chang Mai, Thailand
McKenna is part of a five-fighter team that jet out to South East Asia this weekend alongside Céire Smith, Christina Desmond, Conor Wallace, and Kenny Okungbowa.
It is a return to prominence for the Old School BC man who had suffered something of a frustrating 2015 where, somewhat caught between weights, he lost both his opening bouts in the Elite Senior Championships (the ‘2016’ Elites took place in Winter 2015).
McKenna had “burst on to the scene” as a teenager, winning the Intermediates as an 18 year old. He was then denied by paper-work the chance to participate at the 2013 World Championships following John Joe Nevin’s defection to the pros. In 2014 he was part of the Irish team at the EU Championships, losing to eventual gold medalist Veaceslav Gojan of Moldova.
Now 22, McKenna spoke to Irish-Boxing.com and described how, now, “I am much more mature and experienced and very comfortable boxing at lightweight.”
“I have been quite active boxing in Multi Nations tournaments all over Eastern Europe in recent times.”
One of three boxing brothers alongside reigning National light flyweight champ Stevie and the seemingly pro-bound Aaron, Gary admits that “it’s great having my brothers training alongside me.”
“They are two very talented boxers that push and test me very hard. We are always sparring with each other and of course it’s very competitive – sometimes I have to show them who the boss is!”
“But at the end of the day, we work really well with each other to push ourselves on and are certainly reaping the rewards.”
“I think as we get older it will get more exciting!”
With Sean McComb moving up in weight, and Davey Oliver Joyce’s intentions unknown, a gap in the Irish lightweight division could be forming and McKenna will be hoping to take advantage. He feels that “with good preparation, I know I can beat anyone. It’s all about who wants it the most and winning the Elite title would mean everything to me.”
“If I am going to do it, this is the perfect time to do it. Lets wait and see who togs out.”
“The lightweight division is always the toughest to win and you can’t take anything for granted.”
First things first, there is the World University Championships and the Oriel County fighter is confident, claiming that “I have a lot to offer and very hungry to succeed at such a major event.”
“The ultimate result would be to come home with the gold medal.”
As he is not currently part of the High Performance Unit, juggling boxing and college is a bit easier for McKenna who is a Sports Studies student at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. He explained how “nothing really interferes with my studies. During the summer months I train every morning with my brothers at 6am and then again later that night. When I’m in Jordanstown I make really good use of their facilities.”
“I have received a sports scholarship this year from the University so I get tremendous support from them as an Elite athlete.”
Going from his own experiences, McKenna would like to see more young boxers to continue into Higher Education. He described how “as I am a non-funded boxer, it was an easy decision to make to pursue an education.”
“I think our young boxers should be encouraged not to neglect their education and I would also advise any young boxer to put their education first unless they were very talented and funded as an Elite athlete.”
“There is no reason why you can’t work hard with your education alongside your boxing. That way you have something to fall back on!”