Tyrone McKenna is back boxing in Belfast and ready to take the domestic scene by storm. Following five successful bouts in America the promising welterweight has returned home to be closer to his family and found his way on to Mark Dunlop’s February 7 Devenish card. After four rounds of honest toil, McKenna walked away with a 40-37 victory over Teodor Stefanov and the first step on the road to titles was taken in a competent manner.

“It was the first time I had that kind of support after being out in America so there was a kind of pressure,” admitted McKenna. “I dealt with it well and I was probably the least nervous I’ve been for a fight because I had my coach of 15 years [Patsy McAllister] here with me. I felt comfortable in the ring and that guy was awkward, he kept on coming at me, lunging with big hooks and grabbing with headbutts. It wasn’t as good of a performance that I wanted to give my own crowd but I got the win so I’m happy enough.”

Tyrone showed a mix of untapped potential and a few rough edges that need to be smoothed out by veteran coach McAllister and his team of Jimmy McGrath and unbeaten cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy. Two things McKenna does have going for him are the massive height and reach advantages he will enjoy over the majority of welterweight foes.

“Most people see me and rush on in for the body, just trying to hit anything they can. I’m used to that style as everyone has done that against me. He [Stefanov] was a strong guy and he hit hard so I’m happy I got through the fight OK.

“It’s my professional debut in Ireland and it’s kind of a weird experience. No one really knows me over here as a professional even though I was getting a bit of a fanbase in America, slowly building it up. Now I’ve got to start afresh by getting my name out there again but over here this time.”

Tyrone is still young but reckons there is little time to waste. The 24-year-old is targeting a cluster of victories and then a move into title class – starting with the BUI crown.

“I want to get to 10-0 as quickly as possible and then start to get titles under my belt. I’ll hopefully get 10 wins and then go for an Irish title, then maybe a Commonwealth or Celtic title and then a British title hopefully,” he said.

If ever there was an indication that setting up base in the US has its benefits then McKenna’s sparring sessions with Matt Korobov provide exactly that. Quality Russian Korobov may have fallen short against Andy Lee in their recent world title affair but the former top-class amateur provided Tyrone with high-level stateside workouts.

“I’m a welterweight and he’s a middleweight so I thought it would be quite different but I held my own against him. I felt that Andy was going to win because every spar I was having I hit Korobov with right hooks and that’s Andy’s best punch so I went straight home and bet on Andy to win! I learned a lot out there but I’ve got two kids so it’s good to be home in Ireland.”

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