Settling back in his training home of Los Angeles after spending the bulk of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Ireland, Stevie McKenna was preparing for Saturday’s bout against Damian Haus when he got a call. Junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor was heading into Las Vegas and he needed some sparring. He didn’t need to ask “The Hitman” twice.
“Once Josh Taylor got in, he wanted some work, so I headed down to Vegas and got some quality work in with him,” said McKenna, who also spent some time moving around the ring with heavyweight champ Tyson Fury. “He has a big unification fight, and it was great work.”
It’s a good life for the 24-year-old McKenna. In fact, if it wasn’t his day job, you might call it the equivalent of a fantasy camp for a boxing fan. Sparring with Taylor, and the likes of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Ryan Garcia, meeting legends like the original “Hitman,” Tommy Hearns and Julio Cesar Chavez, it’s experience few, if any, of McKenna’s opponents past, present or future can boast. But it is still a job for McKenna, and while the training will push him to the limit, that makes fight night all that much easier. So don’t expect to hear him saying he needs rounds. He’s fine with the way things are going.
“I've got a lot of experience in the gyms,” he said. “Any training camp, I can do up to 150 rounds of sparring, and when I go in to fight, I go and try to make it an early night and try to get the guys out of there. I'm getting all the work I need in the gym. I've been sparring with world champions for the past couple years since I was in America and I've gained invaluable experience against top guys and I know what I'm capable of. So when I go into the fight, I just go in there to hurt and get the job done.”
So far, so good for McKenna, who is 7-0 with seven knockouts. It’s an impressive run, even though he hasn’t been in with any world beaters yet, but it’s early days for a young man who has shown the potential to make some noise at junior welterweight and welterweight in the coming years. As for the power, well, that’s the real selling point at the moment.
“I always carried power and I knew that once I made the change to the pro game that I'd knock guys out,” said McKenna. “And I always had my eyes toward the professional game. My dream was always to become a professional and a win world titles. So even growing up, I would take those guys out of there with a savage approach.”
Since turning pro in 2019, nothing’s changed, and though the pandemic stalled the momentum of many in the fight game, McKenna didn’t skip a beat, as he stayed in the gym back in Smithborough and fought three times.
“Nothing changed,” he said of 2020. “We go into a training camp in January and it doesn't end until December. We're always in the gym, no matter when it is. I get great work in with (brother) Aaron; me and Aaron spar with each other a lot with my dad coaching us, so we learn a lot from each other.”
Aaron McKenna is making waves in the pro game as well at 11-0 with seven knockouts, and while the two are inseparable and coached by dad Fergal, work is work, and when it’s time to spar, the brothers get down to business.
“We were sparring with each other every day and it was savage sparring with us,” said McKenna of the lockdown work with Aaron. “We don't hold back on each other, but we also learn from each other. We've very competitive, no matter what it is, so we're always trying to get better than each other and improve. And with our dad behind us, we make the perfect team, so it's really good.”
And if that phone rings, expect the McKenna family to always answer.
“We’re a great team,” Stevie said. “We've been all over the world together since we started boxing and we're gonna go the whole way to the top together.”