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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

18 for 18: Monaghan sensation Aaron McKenna is set to take names across the Atlantic

Teen gunslinger Aaron McKenna is Ireland’s youngest professional boxer, and debuted in Vegas last month.

Image: Maya Marquez

OVER THE NEXT 10 days, our 18 for 18 series will look at 18 Irish athletes aged 18 or younger set for a big 2018. You can read the rest of the series here.

25114871_10212731647058589_271744574_n Source: Maya Marquez

“It’s unbelievable. Can you imagine being 18 and being signed by Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions? And boxing out here in America, the land of opportunity. It’s the boxing capital of the world out here in LA, and I’m going to fighting in big places – New York, Las Vegas, Boston, LA – it’s unbelievable.”Aaron McKenna

It is, quite literally, unbelievable. Monaghan’s Aaron McKenna was just 16 when it was first mooted that he was to turn professional, with a debut slated for down Mexico way due to American labour laws.

His decision to wait some 18 months paid dividends: last September, the Smithborough sensation inked a professional deal with former six-weight world champion Oscar De La Hoya, the original ‘Golden Boy’, eventually debuting with an impressive victory at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino last month.

The six-foot-one light-welterweight, a product of the Old School Boxing Club in his hometown, is an eight-time Irish champion, and the youngest boxer signed to Golden Boy Promotions as well as the youngest professional fighter to hail from his native country.

Where many of his ilk would dream of fighting beneath the bright lights Stateside at some juncture in their careers, McKenna has already traversed the Atlantic permanently – alongside his father, Fergal – and so instead dreams of a scrap at the home of Monaghan GAA, St Tiernach’s Park.

First, however, he’ll cut his teeth on the unforgiving American circuit; still just 18, it could be argued McKenna is yet to develop his ‘man-strength’, and so his own aspirations – that he become a freakishly young world champion by the age of 21 – might be a touch hasty, if admirably so.


A mere nine defeats in 161 amateur bouts around the world render his confidence justifiable, as do his European Schoolboys gold medal and a European Junior silver atop his eight national titles. As recently as March of this year, too, he won gold at the highly esteemed Nikolay Pavlyukov Memorial in Russia – a tournament often referred to as the ‘mini World Championships’.

Mind you, McKenna is the first to admit he has much to learn about his new craft, and South African former heavyweight contender Courage Tshabalala – enamoured by the young Irishman’s raw talent – will have plenty of wisdom to impart along the way in his role as head trainer.

McKenna will be aiming to fight as many as six times this year, but is cognisant that time is on his side.

His ceiling is stratospheric, and the journey toward it begins in earnest in the coming months.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

‘Imagine being 18 and being signed by De La Hoya’: Irish star McKenna set to rock Vegas on debut

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