Headline NewsNewsPro NewsTop News of The Day

Schooled like Mike Tyson – fear and caution deliberately kept off the Stevie McKenna training curriculum

Team Stevie McKenna are so concerned with the negative effects fear can have on a fighter that caution is deliberately kept off the training curriculum and indeed out of the game plan.

The young Monaghan fighter has been blasting his way through opponents since turning over back in April of 2019, stopping all seven he has signed to face, with four being counted out in the first round.

It’s not that the Sheer Sports managed 24-year-old has been handed easy-to-fold foe – although it has to be said he awaits any real test – rather McKenna is as uber aggressive with a knockout addiction.

Such has been the nature of the stoppage laden start, that the fairly common ‘he needs to get rounds in’ call has rared their head.

Team McKenna often argue they have banked so many rounds and so much experience in sparring they could live of the interest – and thus don’t need to overtime in the ring.

However, father and coach Fergal McKenna swayed from the go to line somewhat when speaking to the media this week, suggesting there is another element to why ‘The Hitman’ doesn’t take his foot off the gas during fights.

Aaron and Stevie McKenna’s Dad has concerns about bringing negatives to the table and preaching fear.

He seems to suggest the only way to curb McKenna’s natural instinct to fight would be to instill concern into the Hennessy Sports fighter, a concern as to what his opponent is capable of – and that’s something he doesn’t want to do at this stage.

Even suggesting he hold back to see if he can go the distance appears to have fear connotations – and they don’t want that element of doubt to be present.

Put more simply the coach believes the 24-year-old is naturally aggressive, is content an attacking style suits him, and is dead against trying to use fear to put the reigns on him just so fans can tick a rounds done box.

“Stephen is sort of naturally suited to that approach,” Fegal McKenna began explaining.

“If you notice Aaron would be cooler, maybe more stylish. Stephen is more violent and I think [an aggressive] approach suits him, it suits his whole presence. Before he even gets into the ring the opponents are on tenterhooks knowing at any stage they can be knocked out.

“You can clearly see with any fight he is involved in the opponents are not just fighting for survival they are fighting not to get hurt. Some of the guys Stephen fights are bringing an extra 20-30 percent than they usually bring to the ring and that adds to the excitement,” he adds before stressing he doesn’t want to curb the prospect just yet.

“Sometimes coaches are good at teaching fear. They can at times turn a good fighter into a fighter who is afraid of their own shadow. You can see with Stephen he doesn’t know the word fear and we don’t want to introduce that into his fighting style.”

Fergal McKenna does admit an all-out seek and destroy approach won’t always work, particularly as you progress up the ladder, but he trusts his son is learning and will adjust naturally in that regard.

He feels the knockout specialist will adopt a more skillful approach because he knows it’s the best way to win the fight rather than because he has been told to be wary of putting his foot on the gas.

“As he develops and his opponents get tougher he fighting style will change, he will naturally adapt and you will see more skills. For now, we have a young lion and we are teaching it how to hunt and he is doing real damage. It’s just like the way Mike Tyson was schooled and thought.”

How and who McKenna hunts will change over time but the McKenna’s are confident the end result will remain the same. There have been calls for a step up so that theory can be tested. The well-traveled Smithborough native doesn’t really get it this weekend but trainer Fergal McKenna believes Mick Hennessy will move his son at the perfect pace.

“He is getting tremendous experience sparring all these world-class fighters and he is going incredibly well behind the scenes,” he adds when asked about step-ups before suggesting, he as a coach, is getting to see the kind of progression in the gym the more ardent, observant and vocal fans want to witness for themselves.

“In that scenario, you see his skill set. When he gets in and fights your seeing a guy with a fighting instinct, that instinct takes over. It’s crowd-pleasing and it’s one of those styles that will attract a lot of attention, so we want to make sure he holds on to that. But at the same time as he develops making sure he learns new skills so he is ready for better fighters when the time comes.

“I think Mick Hennessy is a shrewd man and knows how to develop fighters. He did a great job with Tyson Fury bringing him to world title glory and the same with Carl Froch. So the bottom line is we could go in with a world champion in the morning and probably beat him but in the interim, we will work to make sure when we get the call and the big offers come in, that all the wee inexperienced mistakes are ironed out and we are more than ready for his opportunity when it comes. I think Mick is perfect for that particularly for the style of fighter Stevie is.”

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