McKenna brothers Aaron and Stevie target youth world titles in Crystal Palace fight night
MONAGHAN brothers Aaron and Stevie McKenna make history on Friday night when they both fight for world youth titles on the same bill at Crystal Palace, London live on Channel 5.
Middleweight Aaron takes on Mexican Carlos Gallego (8-1) while Stevie goes toe-to-toe with experienced Ghanian slugger Abdul Aziz Quartey for the WBC welterweight title on a Hennessy Sports bill that also includes Donegal's Brett McGinty and Newry-trained Michael Hennessy junior.
Polite and affable like his brother, Stevie McKenna is a different animal outside the ring to the ‘Tasmanian Devil' he becomes when he ducks through the ropes.
His last opponent, 31-4-1 Richmond Djarbeng (also from Ghana) never made it out of his own corner in an extraordinary encounter three weeks' ago. Bristling with fierce aggression, McKenna jumped on him as soon as the bell went and hammered him to the canvas with a withering two-handed head-body assault. Experienced Djarbeng – who had been in with Jeff Horn and Zhankosh Turarov in the past – was expected to be a step up for McKenna but he lasted just 40 seconds against the power-punching Smithboro warrior.
“I'm looking forward to it, all the hard work has been done and me and Aaron are looking forward to picking up titles,” said ‘The Hitman'.
With 18 stoppage wins on his 24-fight record, Friday night's opponent Quartey is expected to be another step up for Stevie but the Monaghan native – who has gone the distance just once in 10 contests – intends to walk through him.
“I'll do what I do,” he said.
“He has a good record and it's a step up but I'm more than capable of going in and taking out of there. My last fight was a step up, he (Djarbeng) had 25 knockouts but my plan was not to let him out of his corner and I kept him there and got him out of there as quick as I could.
“Nothing has changed for this fight. I'm going in with the same mentality and the same desire to win and I'm going to go out and put on an entertaining performance.”
Quartey's corner will have watched McKenna's previous fights so they will expect him to come out all guns blazing. The 24-year-old knows the Accra native will have prepared for war but says he won't be able to live with his power.
“He can prepare all he wants but when he takes one of the shots from me he'll know about it,” he said.
“I hit exceptionally hard and if I catch someone clean they're going to go down no matter who they are. It makes for an exciting fight, it's a great fight for me at this stage of my career and I'm looking forward to it.
“Next year is going to be massive, it's going to be a big year for myself and Aaron and it'll really kick off. We're going to be stepping up to 10 round fights and I think it's going to be the breakthrough year. We'll be the top 15 in the world this time next year.”
Meanwhile, younger brother Aaron (22) is also trained by his dad Fergal and has progressed to 13-0 since he made his professional debut at the iconic Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas in 2017. A middleweight in the classical mould, his slick boxing style contrasts with Stevie's raw aggression but his objective is the same – win on Friday night and then kick on to the very top.
“It's great to be fighting again and being active and busy,” said ‘The Silencer'.
“This is my third fight in three months and I want to finish the year off on a high with a World Youth title – what a belt to be fighting for.
“I've fought a few Mexicans in my career and they're all tough, they all know how to fight. He (Gallego) is going to be coming to win but I'm not going to let that happen. I'm well prepared, I've been all over the world, I've seen a lot of styles and I'm ready to do the business.
“It'll be class to win my first title, especially with Stephen winning his on the same night. I've never heard of two brothers doing that on the one night so it will be special for us to do that. It'll prepare me for the future and this is the first belt of many.
“Everybody will get the chance to watch it on Channel 5 and there are a lot of Irish going so it will be a great night for both of us.”
RICKY Hatton-trained Brett McGinty takes on Bulgarian journeyman Angel Emilov (10-36) in Crystal Palace, London on Friday night.
The light-middleweight from St Johnston, county Donegal, intends to progress to 5-0 inside his first 12 months as a professional and has a bright future ahead of him in the ring. But it could all have been different if he followed the rest of his family into football. Brett, who was also a talented GAA player, comes from “a big football family” and his brother Shane currently plays for Dungannon Swifts while his cousin Tyler Toland recently transferred from Manchester City Ladies to Celtic.
“I actually only started boxing when I was 9 or 10 to lose a bit of weight and get rid of a bit of puppy fat,” said Brett.
“I took to it and stuck at it and I was playing football at the same time as boxing. I played in the semi-final of the Northern Ireland Cup one Saturday and then went to fight in an Ulster U14 final straight after it.
“Then it got to the stage where I was doing really well at the boxing so football took a back seat but I still played until eventually I had to quit the football. I do love the football and I wish to God I was still playing but it's going to have to take a back seat for a while.
“I'll be off after this fight until the New Year so I might try and get a couple of games in for the local club at home if I can.”
For now McGinty is very much focussed on the business at hand which is moving to 5-0 by beating Emilov in his first six-rounder on Friday night.
“This time 12 months ago I hadn't got started so to have five fights under my belt and, all being well, to be 5-0 would be great,” he said.
“Then I'll push on next year.”