Belfast Telegraph

Game of Thrones warrior Tyrone McKenna lands leading role in boxing world

By David Kelly

He could have used his natural warrior skills in Game of Thrones - but on Saturday night Tyrone McKenna will be in a real fight which could transform his career.

The unbeaten 28-year-old is playing a leading role in the 'Homecoming' bill of ring star Michael Conlan, who has his first bout as a professional in Belfast's SSE Arena.

However, McKenna admits his life could have been easier had he stuck to acting.

Belfast man McKenna caught the eye when playing the teenage son of screen stars Robert Carlyle and Gillian Anderson in the 2004 movie The Mighty Celt - the title of the movie now used as his fighting nickname.

Offers flooded in for more roles after he hooked up with Anderson's agent but he decided to stick to boxing, winning Ulster and Irish amateur titles before turning professional.

"Doing the film with Robert Carlyle and Gillian Anderson was great fun - they loved me. Robert was a real gentleman and Gillian was very nice. We got on really well and she ended up getting me in touch with her agent," said McKenna, who fights fellow unbeaten fighter Jack Catterall for his WBO inter-continental title on Saturday night.

"I actually wasn't picked for the auditions after they had come around our school but there was an open audition and I went down and got the part out of around 2,300 kids. I seemed to have the knack for it and to be honest when I hang up the gloves I would love to go back to it.

"There have been plenty of times when I've thought that I should have tried harder and stuck at it even though I love boxing.

"After The Mighty Celt, a lot of offers came in to my agent who sent me to voice lessons so I could do foreign accents, English and American accents.

"But they were £150 an hour so I pretended to go and then when it came to auditions and the people were expecting to hear my American accent, I couldn't do it! I could have been in movies with Judi Dench and Tom Hanks.

"The big mistake was not taking my chance at being in Game of Thrones. I was asked to go along to the audition, not knowing anything about it because it was just going to start the first series.

"They told me to come along on a Saturday and I was all set but then realised that I was meant to be going to a Jay Z concert in Manchester the same day.

"So I just thought, 'I'm not missing Jay Z' and didn't bother turning up. So that chance went and after that I just gave up and focused on boxing. I could have been rich by now and not having to worry about making weight or taking punches to the head!"

McKenna also recognises that it would have made life a little easier for his family, given the tough times he had after turning pro and the less than glamorous lifestyle of a fighter making his way up the ladder.

Indeed, he is quick to praise partner Catrina for her support along the path to this big fight on Saturday night.

"Catrina takes care of everything and to be honest at times she is like a single mum because I am away that often in training camps," he added.

"She does a great job looking after the wee ones, Tyrone and Aoibhe, and keeping the house ticking over as well as holding down a job - and in the early days of my career I was skint so she kept us going.

"So, I think she's now looking for a big pay-day and she deserves it more than me."

Belfast Telegraph

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