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Long Distance Lover – LA base suits top prospect Aaron McKenna

In terms of distance LA is just over 8000 kilometres of a journey from Monaghan but in terms of lifestyle, culture, weather and boxing opportunities it’s a million miles away from all things Smithborough.

The fact teen prospect Aaron McKenna has to rise at 4:00am for 5:00am sprint sessions because doing them at any other time would be impossible due to the blistering heat only emphasizes the difference between the Golden Boy fighter’s residence and home.

It’s a distance older fighters like Jason Quigley and Michael Conlan found difficult in recent times and both world title hopefuls elected to move closer to home, but McKenna is more than happy where he is at.

The young welterweight, who trains alongside his soon-to-debut older brother Stevie and is accompanied by his father, claims he is too busy and focused to get homesick.

The undefeated 19-year-old also stresses at this stage of his career, when he is looking to keep busy. the relocation is a must and points out that, in terms of learning, he couldn’t be in a better place.

“That’s a decision we made,” he says about moving to LA when speaking to Irish-Boxing.com.

“In your first couple of years as a pro it’s busy for you. I had six fights since I turned pro and that’s only been a year. So you want to be over there if your fighting there. If you were flying back to Ireland regularly from LA it would take you a week to get going with jet lag and stuff.”

“Plus the sparring we are getting and the top quality training myself and Steven get is amazing. The gyms we have been, it’s real legend stuff. Some of the names we have been sparring too like Amir Khan, Fabien Madania and just before I came home the WBA #1 Alexander Besputin and Steven was in with Lomechenko. To get that kind of sparring is amazing,” he adds with excitement.

“It’s hard to get spars over here and if you do get spars you have to travel, so it’s ideal that way there. You have top spars on your doorstep.”

“The training we are doing too. We are running up Griffen Park every Saturday. It’s four and a half mile up hill. Manny Pacquiao used to do that and Scott Quigg introduced us to it. Every Tuesday and Thursday we do our track work at 5am, we do it early because it’s not so warm.”

The McKenna brothers get home twice a year, but Aaron points out they don’t really feel homesick when away. It’s not that they are living the life out in the LA sunshine, rather they are consumed by boxing and in that regard don’t have time to miss the cooler climes of Ireland.

“Once you’re in training camp mode you don’t really have time to think about missing home. Once you’re in training camp your serious and focused on fighting. Honestly the main thing on your mind now is winning every fight and improving in every camp.”

McKenna became Ireland’s youngest active pro when he debuted in December of 2017 and James Power of Cork, 17, has since taken that status away from him. However, the Sheer Sports-managed teenager remains one of Ireland’s busiest punchers and some suggest our most exciting prospect.

The fighter, who comes from a boxing family, has fought six times since his debut and has stepped up impressively during that time.

“It’s great to have six fights and four knockouts so far,” he says.

“It’s great to be so busy and the main thing now is to keep improving and keep winning.”

The knockouts and the manner in which they have become have caught the eye particularly due to the ‘Silencer’s’ appearance and quiet out-of-the-ring persona.

Securing stoppages is something the welter reveals he has worked specifically on with coach Courage Tshabalala, a former heavyweight with 22 KOs from 26 wins. 

“Since my debut I have improved on getting knockouts. My debut went the distance and since then we have been working on stopping people with Courage. I am settling down on my punches and making sure they land in the right spot.”

“You can see that in the last fight it landed perfect, that body shot, he didn’t get back up. Courage loves a knock out look at his record as a fighter. Although he doesn’t want you rushing or looking for it.”


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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 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: editoririshboxing@gmail.com