Living in LA and lying for Lomachenko – Stevie McKenna excited for pro start

Since deciding to turn pro last year, Stevie McKenna has had to be flexible.

There have been plenty of delays for the Monaghan light welterweight but, tomorrow night at the Sports Arena in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles, he will finally make his pro debut, facing Trey Branch [0-2(1)] over four rounds.

McKenna has been out in LA for the past year, training alongside his younger brother and current 7-0 welterweight prospect Aaron under top South African coach Courage Tshabalala.

The time spent waiting on licences and a solid debut date may have been frustrating for some but the 22-year-old would keep his head down.

McKenna has been getting plenty of good work around the gyms of LA and the flexibility he showed while in the flux-y period between amateur and pro translated into his actual approach in the ring one November afternoon.

The Old School graduate admits he told a white lie to ensure he got to spend some time in the sparring ring with possibly the greatest fighter on the planet at present.

McKenna aised his hand when a surprise chance to spar master technician Vasyl Lomachenko was offered ahead of the Ukrainian’s unification fight with Jose Pedraza last year.

The Smithborough man’s advances were initially rebuffed as the much decorated amateur and pro needed southpaw opposition.

Not one to miss out on the opportunity to test himself against a great, the orthodox Commonwealth Youth gold and European Youth silver medallist professed to being a southpaw and proceeded to share five rounds with ‘The Matrix’.

Considering he likes to switch hit, the lefty claim was just a small fib and one McKenna may benefit from moving forward.

Not only did he get to learn from sharing the training ring with the natural talent he also took confidence from the spar as he prepares to start his own pro journey tomorrow.

Recalling the incident, McKenna told Sky Sports how “we went to the gym, just going to spar, and they came down asking ‘did you want to spar Lomachenko?'”

“I said yeah sure, but they needed a southpaw and I’m orthodox. I told him I’m a southpaw and I went in against him, and held my own, no problem. I learnt a lot, so it was brilliant.”

“It was unbelievable to share the ring with him. I like to switch between orthodox and southpaw, so I’m able to box both styles,” the Smithborough man added before further reflecting on his 15 minutes with the famous fighter.

“He does a lot of thinking in there. The first round or so, he’s working you out, seeing what you are doing. If you make a mistake, he’ll counter.

“It was a very good spar, top class, he was very happy with it.”

While he was decorated in the amateurs, the pros were always a calling for McKenna, especially after Aaron’s defection to Golden Boy Promotions.

Like his brother, McKenna is managed by Sheer Sports and he hopes to nail down a promotional deal soon.

He has the approach to be successful, he feels, and he told Seconds Out. that “I think my style is more suited to the pros.”

“I watched Aaron turn pro and it got me excited to get in there as well because I know ultimately that I have style that is fan-friendly and is better suited to the pro game.”

I have an aggressive style, but I can box off the back foot. But, I am aggressive and I think that will go down well in the pro game.”

“I think my conditioning is really a great feature of my boxing. I get better as the fight goes on. I think the longer bouts will suit me. I fight as hard in the last round as I do in the first; I get stronger as the fight goes on.”

Branch won’t offer a Lomachenko-level test, obviously, and tomorrow is more about finally getting started and the record rolling.

McKenna is aiming to be busy and outlined how “I hope to get in as many bouts as possible this year but I would like to fight six times if possible.”

“I’m really excited to get in there as a pro and test myself.”


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Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: