Steve McKinnon: Glory Bound

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International Kickboxer Magazine, September/October, 2013

Steve McKinnon has just come through a difficult twelve months, but he’s feeling good. This year, Steve has had two fights on Glory World Series, the European promotion that has stepped in to fill the vacuum for world-class kickboxing since the demise of the Japanese K1. After rematching Nathan Corbett on his own promotion, Total Carnage II, Steve suffered another two decision defeats on Glory. Like any true champion, however, he remains undeterred. His ultimate goal?

“World domination,” he quips. “In this Glory thing, I want to beat everyone. If they give me bum scores, I’ve just got to knock ‘em out. I’ll get there.”

Steve’s two fights for Glory both resulted in controversial decisions. The first fight as part of Glory 7 in Milan, Italy, saw Steve pitted against 22 year-old Dutchman, Michael Dutt.

“Dutt punches very, very hard. He’s tall; has long arms. In the first round, I tried to punch with him and I got caught. When I came out in the second, I decided to kick more and move my head. Then, I started kicking his legs. I kept the pressure on, hunting him down.”

The loss aside, McKinnon’s response to fighting in Italy was very positive.

“I’d never been before, but it was really good. Italians love kickboxing – there were 8,000 people at the venue. They loved the fighting, and they cheered for me! They booed the decision and cheered me as I walked out after; the whole crowd.”

Steve’s follow-up performance on Glory 9 in New York saw him included in the draw for an eight-man tournament which again saw Michael Dutt included, along with Tyrone Spong.

“In the first round of the tournament, I faced Fillip Verlinden. He’s a good fighter. I felt like I was a step ahead the whole way. I kept the pressure on and broke him down.”

While Steve was a dominant force, he didn’t manage to knock Verlinden down, which may well have been why the judges chose to score against him. “I dropped him with low kicks, but otherwise no.”

Steve completed the first leg of the tournament “feeling really good”. Unfortunately, the decision went against him. The American crowd responded in similar fashion to the Italians.

“[When the decision was awarded the] crowd booed really hard! Half-way through the night, they started chanting, ‘We want Steve! We want Steve!”

Like a true champion, Steve doesn’t complain about the judging. He has returned to the drawing board with his brother and trainer, Stuart, to see what can be done to improve.

“After the first Glory fight, we went home and looked up the rules. They score a lot of flashy stuff, like spinning kicks. We’re working on getting more of it in. More of the sort of thing from when I used to do karate.”

“I’m also using faster hand combinations; staying a lot busier. I’ll throw a hands combo, then kick and go into another hands combo and then move, following up immediately on anything that may have hurt.”

“We’re also working on including more tricky stuff. I trained for weeks with a weight vest. Then when I took it off, I was cracking!”

The Glory organization are now the rising power in world kickboxing and their reputation for high-quality promotions is matched by their level of professionalism at an organizational level.

“Amazing shows,” says Steve. “Huge events; very impressive both in terms of production, but also the people that are there. They have a real buzz about them. They have a show on every month in a different country. They are impatient, and need everything done straight away. As long as you’re on the ball, though, they’re good to deal with.”

Prior to Glory, Steve rematched Nathan Corbett in one of the most anticipated bouts in the history of Australian kickboxing. Their first fight was ended by doctor stoppage. McKinnon had been cut three times with Carnage’s golden elbows, although Steve had managed to score with a nasty cut of his own. The rematch ended in similar fashion to their first meeting.

“I think he was a little more ‘on’ on the night than I was, and he outscored me.”

A third meeting is tantalizing, although Steve sees the likelihood as doubtful.

“Another Carnage rematch isn’t likely, although I’d love it. He always walks away damaged; he’s got two wins, it’s kind of not worth it to him.”

If the opportunity did arise, Steve knows what he would do differently.

“Next time, I’d just make sure I’m training the way I am now. I have a tendency to over-train, and I get a little bit run-down. I need rest, instead of trying to push through. With the experience I’ve had, I think I know what I’m doing with it now. I’m learning more about myself and my style. With the Glory thing, we’re training really differently and it seems to be working really well for me.”

Steve started training in Shotokan karate at a very early age. His father, a former Scottish paratrooper, had karate schools all over Scotland. When he emigrated with his sons Stuart and Steven, he opened a number of schools in Sydney. He was keen to bring his sons up with a solid grounding in martial arts. Steve, however, had other ideas.

“My dad used to pay me pocket money to go to training, because I didn’t want to go!”

Kickboxing, as it turns out, would find its way to him.

“My first kickboxing fight was at the age of sixteen. I went around to Stuart’s house one day, because he had been training some guys for kickboxing fights. Anyway, one of them didn’t turn up, so I fought in his place, even though I hadn’t been training. I KOed my opponent in the third with a head kick. I decided then and there that this is what I wanted to do! From there, I had a series of amateur fights and after I won the world WKBF amateur title, I turned pro.”

Steve has always trained with his brother Stuart, a successful partnership which has endured to this day. The boys also began training at the Bulldog Gym and met Nick Stone, who made a crucial contribution to their style.

“We went to Nick for his experience with kickboxing. When we began, the impact was a shock! We were coming from non-contact tournaments, where the focus was on style and technique. We found that because Shotokan is a powerful style, it adjusted well to Muay Thai, though. Nick trained us in terms of kickboxing technique and we always tried to hit hard.”

Steve made the shift from cruiserweight to heavyweight the best way possible: slowly.

“I started at 86 kilograms and gradually went up in weight. I found that cutting weight didn’t work for me; I got really sick. Now, I fight at 95, the lighter end of heavyweight. That’s the cutoff. I’m not meant to be hit by guys at 120 kilograms.”

His recent overseas adventures with Glory have invigorated Steve as a fighter.

“I feel great. I’m fighting again in five weeks; this week, I’m just starting to pick it all up again. I’m fighting in Bonnyrig, on a Steve Jez show. My opponent is a Frenchman by the name of David Radcliffe. I’ve fought him once before, on a television show called Enfusion. He’s really tough, and usually fights a bit lighter. He can’t be taken lightly, but I think I’ll do well based on previous experience.”

Brother Stuart is on the cusp of turning forty and has a son of his own who is occasionally making his way in to the Bulldog Gym. Surely his brother’s growing family has made Steve begin to consider life after kickboxing?

“I have plans to eventually start my own gym. I want to do it out near Bondi. The last two or three years I’ve been doing some personal training out that way, three days a week to get my name out around there.”

Other than that, Steve is in excellent form and with his renewed vigor for training, the best may well be yet to come.

“For the next twelve months, the plan is to just keep training and fighting and traveling. My body feels good and I’m still hungry and until one of those things starts to fade, I’ll just keep powering on.”

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