Interview with Daniel McKinnon

Interview with Daniel McKinnon

He competed in the Contender Australian series in 2009, has been in the Boxing ring since he was 10 years old, and is the proud father of three children (Tré, Brandon & Skye).

Daniel McKinnon is one of New Zealand's growing stars in the boxing scene. Currently living in the little town of Otorohanga, and training under the careful guidance of Henry Shuster, Dan has big aspirations for the future, including taking out the WBO or IBF regional title at the end of the year and getting into the world rankings so he may fight with Less Sherrington or Soulan Pownceby for their world titles.

We met Dan at the Northern Steamship in Auckland to find out what he's up to and what his plans are for the future.

 NZF: Hi Dan, tell us a bit about your life before fighting?

DM: I grew up in a small town called Otorohanga which is about an hour South of Hamilton. I had a pretty normal upbringing. I grew up with a sister and older brother and was the youngest. I was always a child that was into Rambo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan; the ultimate warrior wrestling was big, and Bruce Lee who was big at that time. I suppose growing up with that influencing me into becoming a fighter. I was always interested in Mike Tyson and Mohamad Ali.

At the time I was 9 years of age, and I also suffered with a lot of asthma. My doctor suggested that I get into boxing training. So I started training out of the Te Awamutu Boxing Club as a young amateur and showed a lot of potential. I seemed to have a natural ability for boxing. From there I carried on with it and became quite successful since.

NZF: When was your first fight?

DM: I had my first fight when I was 10 years old in New Plymouth. I ended up fighting twice on one night and won both fights. You can imagine for a small kid I was on a pretty big high. I just loved it from then on.

I changed trainers a number of times. As you grow as a fighter you need to move on to more experienced trainers. My first trainer was Arnold Kettle. He was my very first boxing trainer: a great trainer and I will always respect him. I've been through quite a few trainers as an amateur; Rex Jenkins from Rotorua. He helped me get my first NZ Amateur Title. I also won a lot of Golden Gloves Titles through him. It was after that I turned Pro. That was in 2003. I was training with Colin Hunia at the time. Colin represented NZ at the Commonwealth Games and was one of New Zealand's top amateur fighters. He also trained under Rex Jenkins. Henry Schuster trains me now. He has trained the likes of Shane Cameron and trains Soulan Pownceby, and is the best trainer I have ever had. I think I can go all the way to the top with him.

NZF: What is your current record? (Including titles)

DM: My current professional fight record is 17 wins / 5 losses / 1 draw

My current titles are:

WBO Oriental Super middleweight Champion

NZNBF Middleweight Champion


NZF: How do you mentally prepare for a fight?

DM: For myself I just carry on as normal. Of course the training changes as you get closer to the fight: you get a lot more into the sprint work; working on your speed, a lot more stretching and Yoga. In the final week I really don't do too much. I will spar up to the final four days before the fight. After that I just relax and do a lot of walking. I spend a lot of time with my family. Some fighters tend to keep away from their families. For me I find it easier to spend time with my partner and children right up to the day of the fight. Then on the day of the fight, I just lax out and eat what I like and just have a good day. Then I go down to the fight and get into it and try not to get too stressed out.

NZF: What does a typical fight training day look like for you?

DM: If it's a big 12 round fight, 10 weeks out from the fight I will be doing a lot of running: 16km a day and working out my muscle endurance, then back into the gym to do my conditioning training and weights. I usually do a lot of heavy weights that far out, and plymetrics. I then have a good rest in the afternoon then back in the gym at night. I train about 3 times a day, 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Some fighters have a real schedule as to how they train. I tend to train depending on how my body feels. But usually I will have 3 intense and 3 medium days of training.

NZF: What fight has been your career highlight so far?

Photo by Crispin Anderlini

Photo by Crispin Anderlini

DM: Three highlights so far: the first being the NZ Professional Title; I always wanted to have a NZ Title. Another was fighting Daniel Geal, and probably being on the Contender Australian series 2009. That was real great experience. Probably the greatest learning experience I've ever had as far as boxing goes. I was training with guys like Victor Oganov, Paul Briggs and Billy Hussien. It was great to spend time with top fighters; seeing how they train and finding out for myself that I was a lot physically fitter and stronger than they are. Going into it I thought that these guys were going to be fast and strong, but I realised that they weren't that much better than the rest of us; that all our NZ Fighters weren't that far off from the rest of the world. I think that there is a lot of potential in NZ that is not being tapped into. If you took some of that NZ potential and went to the States with it and really started to promote them, we could take it to the top. If we had some money thrown at us and got some top quality training, who knows what we would do.

NZF: Have you ever fought overseas? What is it like to represent New Zealand on an international fight stage? Is fighting overseas different from here?

DM: I fought overseas a few times. As an amateur I represented NZ against Daniel Baff. I definitely felt I won the fight. One of the judges (who was Irish LOL) thought I won the fight. My trainer thought I won the fight. But the Ozzy judge got me on a majority points decision. You definitely get quite a hostile crowd in Australia. That can be expected. Again I fought a guy called Jonny ‘2 Guns' Walker. He's ranked 9th in the world in Cruiserweight. I was sent there to fight; just someone on the meat wagon going over there to get stitched up LOL. I ate on the weigh-in and weighed in at 77.8kg. He was meant to make Light heavyweight which is 79.3, but came in at 81! I thought ‘bugger' but they let him come in on it. Before the fight his manager came to speak to me to tell me that Jonny had been beating Danny Green; trying to mess with my head. Then on the day of the fight, they started doing tactics like getting me 12oz gloves when I was meant to fight on 10s, and little tactics like playing the wrong music. It didn't matter as I ended up knocking him out in the 4th round. That was a huge upset. The crowd was booing me. I don't know why, I just beat him up LOL. In the end you get used to the hostility and games and get immune to it. It just comes down to experience.

NZF: What you do for a job and how do you keep balance between work and being a fighter, father & husband?

DM: I have a busy schedule. I live in Otorohanga, and am up here 4 days working in an apprenticeship to be a chef. It's my manager (Mark Keoldel) who owns the restaurant I'm working at (Northern Steamship, Auckland). He's helping me out with my life after boxing. I love cooking so I might as well do something with it. I am able to do it as my partner Christina is so supportive of me. She lets me go away 3 -4 days a week as I have to be in Auckland to get anywhere in Boxing. When I do get home though I find that I focus on the family and spend quality time with my partner and kids (Tré, Brandon & Skye). I've found a good balance with it and am lucky my manager owns the bar I work at as like last week I took time off for sparring and training. It's having opportunities like that that makes it good.

NZF: Any big plans or aspirations for the future?

DM: Definitely a world title shot would be great. I'm really working on building up my record at the moment. I may be looking at the WBO or IBF regional title at the end of the year. Get into the world rankings and then maybe fight with Les Sherrington or Soulan Pownceby for their world titles. It's about building my record and creating an image that's good for ‘pay-per-view' as that's how you get the title shots. You have to be someone who sells ‘pay-per-views'. Being on the Contender was good for me. I have made a bigger name in Australia than over here.

NZF: What's your advice to the youth who want to get into the ring or want to start training?

DM: Hard work. It all takes hard work. But also, when you are young the biggest thing is to have fun with it. I look back now and I remember that my father was quite strict on me with my training, which was all good, but sometimes when I had fun I fought best and when I wasn't having fun I just didn't want to be there. So make sure you are having fun with it, if you aren't then it may not be your sport.

NZF: Anything else you'd like to add?

DM: I'd definitely like to thank my trainer Henry Shuster, he's had a lot of faith in me and trained me for a long time now. Also Chris & Graham who own New Image (a supplement company) who have been giving me a lot of support and my manager Mark Keoldel and my family for sticking by me.

NZF: Great, thanks Dan and good luck for you next fight.

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