McKenna fighting for his family's future
Tyrone McKenna says he wants to go all the way in the light-welterweight Golden Contract tournament so he can re-pay the dedication of wife Catriona throughout his career.
Belfast man McKenna is part of the eight-man event, which starts on Friday night at the York Hall, Bethnal Green with the quarter-finals. The 29-year-old, who has suffered only a solitary defeat in 21 bouts, will find out today who he faces when the draw is made on Sky Sports.
Having lost to future world title challenger Jack Catterall, McKenna has in the last 18 months chalked up three wins and in June landed the WBC international title. But now he believes that the opportunity has arrived for him to earn good money and by the end of the tournament find himself in line for some big fights.
Based at a training camp in Scotland with coach Danny Vaughan, McKenna - who spent the early part of his career in the States - says he has had to sacrifice family life in order to pursue a career in boxing.
"This Golden Contract is a massive opportunity for me to buy my house and have some money in the bank. After seven years as a pro, it would make all the hardship worthwhile," said McKenna.
"Unless you've been in a training camp for a fight, you don't realise just how intense it can become. It can be very draining, it's so intense - it's the camps that eventually drain fighters mentally to the point where they have had enough.
"But it's not just me that is affected by it all. I've missed so many of the birthdays of my children Aoibhe and Tyrone jnr and being away from Catriona has been very tough. She deserves a lot of credit because she has had to be like a single mother while I've got on with my career.
"She works as a barwoman until about 2.30 in the morning and then is up at 6.30 to start getting the kids ready for school while I'm away at camp for eight to 10 weeks. Some guys are able to go home and spend some time at home but I need to be locked away so I can keep totally focused on boxing.
"This is the reality but finally I can make it all worth it by having some big wins in this tournament."
McKenna is one of the favourites to win the tournament but knows that he could face tough challenges if drawn against opponents such as world-ranked boxers Anthony Yigit and Mohamed Mimoune - the fight everyone wants to see, a battle with bitter rival Ohara Davies.
The Belfast man and Davies have exchanged social media verbal assaults for the best part of three years and it came to a head at the previous Golden Contract featuring his gym-mate Tyrone McCullagh last month. The two men were seen squaring up to each other backstage before being separated.
"I know that the fight with Davies is what a lot of the fans want to see but I really don't mind who I'm drawn against because I believe I can beat any of them.
"I'm just really looking forward to the night and I know that I have a good number of fans coming over to watch it. Knowing that people have spent their hard-earned money on flights and hotels to support me just drives me on even more.
"I want to go in there and do my friends and family proud. I feel mentally and physically strong and I know I've been sparring better than ever."
• Holy Trinity's Barry McReynolds made it through to the final of the lightweight division after a tough battle with Myles Casey of St Francis at the Irish Elite Championships in Dublin last night.
At the end of a close encounter, the judges ruled 3-2 in favour of the Belfast man, who will be bidding for glory on Friday night back at Dublin's National Stadium.