Each month, Balls.ie celebrates the achievements of Irish sportspeople under the age of 20 with the Rising Star award. The winner for March is Monaghan boxer Aaron McKenna.
ESPN's coast-to-coast viewers knew the end was nigh after a brutal right cross juddered Jose Palacios's entire frame. It was quickly followed up by a sharp body shot and the already bowled over American soon sunk to his knees as he sought refuge.
Less than a minute later, on his United States television debut, the youngest Irish professional in boxing right now ended the bout in the first round to take his record to 2-0 (1KO.) Not bad for an eighteen-year-old.
Aaron McKenna very composed tonight. Right hand like a sledgehammer. pic.twitter.com/YLWoGkACky
— Maurice Brosnan (@m_brosnan) March 23, 2018
Monaghan's Aaron McKenna is destined for a bright future having partnered with Golden Boy Promotions, headed by former Olympian and world champion Oscar De La Hoya who told Balls.ie of his excitement at the prodigy's future prospects.
Aaron McKenna is one of Golden Boy’s most promising future stars. Aaron has demonstrated in just two professional fights so far that he is a fighter to be feared and respected. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
McKenna stands at over 6ft tall and is an eight-time National champion as well as a European gold medalist and a World multination gold medalist. Fuelled by the goodwill and success generated on Irish soil, he confirms his desire to launch a global conquest.
It’s great to have the Monaghan people behind me and the Irish people as well. Someday back home I want to fight in St Tiernach's Park and fight for a world title there. That’s the dream.
McKenna hails from the same club as Barry McGuigan and heavyweight Kevin McBride and credits his amateur experience for the composure he has carried into the paid ranks. As his March victory demonstrated, the prospect of 'bright light nerves' is remote.
Yeah, I was very happy with my performance. I thought I did very well and learned a lot too from it.
I’m actually boxing in two weeks again in the same spot. Just took it in my stride, I've had a lot of amateur experience now, over 160 fights! I’ve been too Russia seven times too so I’m well used to getting in the ring now. It's great, every fight seems to get better and better, I'm feeling very comfortable at the minute too, I just can't wait for my next fight.
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) March 23, 2018
McKenna's victory only confirmed the fact Irish boxing is currently in a period of unprecedented prosperity. This is a fact he references as a source of pride.
It is absolutely fabulous, Irish boxing is absolutely booming at the minute. A lot more people are starting to turn pro now as well. Just watch Ryan Burnett, Carl Frampton, they are doing so well. They are putting Ireland on the map out here.
Golden Boy has big plans for their youngest recruit whilst the teen is under Sheer Sports, the same management company as Jason Quigley who just last week delivered a killer knock-out live on ESPN.
Now attention turns toward generating momentum and developing as a boxer. In the gym, McKenna is working on settling down with his punches so that they reflect his undoubted power and he will have several opportunities to put this work into practice.
This year keep active Golden Boy have planned eight fights for me. I'm going to be kept busy which is the way I like it. I'm always in the gym training, every day now so I’m keen to keep going.
Indisputable talent, discernible belief and secure management. The future looks bright for Aaron McKenna.