Aaron McKenna: The Pride of Ireland
Photographs by Valentino Romero
Ever since Aaron “The Silencer” McKenna was six years old and he followed his older brothers to the Old School Boxing Gym in Smithborough, Ireland, he knew he wanted to be a professional fighter. Though Smithborough is population: smaller than the audience at your local club fight, the gym had already served as a home to Irish boxing legends such as former WBA world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and heavyweight Kevin McBride, who was best known for knocking out Mike Tyson. “There was a lot of history in that club,” McKenna says. “I’m ready now to make history for myself.”
It might seem overwhelming for a 19-year-old to move from Ireland to Los Angeles to make a living with his fists, but McKenna doesn’t see it that way. With an amateur record of 161-9, he has already fought in hostile territory around around the world. Now, as one of the most exciting boxing prospects in Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy stable of fighters, McKenna is ready to make the type of bright lights, big city story that Hollywood loves so much.
Now 4-0 with three knockouts, McKenna is ready to make his next performance a memorable one as he steps into the ring to battle Rolando Mendivil this Saturday in Hollywood, with the fight to be televised live on Facebook.
“I’ve always learned things very fast,” McKenna says. “I had a natural talent for boxing. I played football when I was younger, but I got serious with boxing when I turned 11. My father, who works with me now, used to be a boxer when he was younger. Both my older brothers are fighters. Boxing has been in my blood.”
The six-foot-one welterweight has drawn stylistic comparisons to such boxing royalty as Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns by none other than boxing legend “Irish” Micky Ward. “I’m a strong fighter, and I like to to knock people out,” McKenna says. “I know how to use my leverage to get power behind my punches.”
Growing up, McKenna followed the careers of Irish boxing legends such as Wayne McCullough and Steve Collins. “Wayne was the best,” McKenna says. They were really Irish-type fighters. The Irish are tough!”
As part of the YouTube generation, McKenna would scour the Internet for classic fights to see what he could learn. “Ever since I started, I grew up watch Mike Tyson,” McKenna says. He had the type of boxer attitude that I always want to have. I have an aggressive style. I hunt my opponent down. It’s a style with a lot of pressure. I want my style to be a combination of Mike Tyson, Marvin Hagler and Oscar De La Hoya.
With De La Hoya serving as McKenna’s current promoter, he has been readily available for any advice. “Working with Oscar and Golden Boy here in Los Angeles has been brilliant,” McKenna says. “This is the place you want to be if you’re going to make it. All the good quality sparring is here. And Oscar supports me big time. I’ve always looked up to him. It’s great to have someone like him behind you.”
With so much success at such a young age, one wonders if it’s too much too soon for any fighter, even one of McKenna’s talent and experience. But he’s ready to continue to stay busy. “I don’t like taking time off,” he says. “I’d love to finish the year with seven pro fights. My goal is to be a world champion by the time I’m 21.”
But first things first. McKenna quickly adds that he takes each fight as it comes. “You can expect me to be the aggressor this Saturday. You’ll see an action-packed fight. I’ll look for the knockout. The American and Mexican audiences are growing here for me, especially the Mexicans. They love fighters who get in there and fight. I think they appreciate my style.”
Watch Aaron McKenna takes on Rolando Mendivil this Saturday, August 11 at 9 pm ET streaming live on Facebook’s Golden Boy Fight Night page.