By Paul Mason
One thing you can’t accuse Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell of is ducking fights. Allegedly, talks are ongoing for him to defend his WBA “Regular” Bantamweight Title, against a man making big waves in the division below. On top of this McDonnell seems willing to travel to the backyard of Japan’s Naoya Inoue to further enhance his reputation in the sport. Eddie Hearn is currently attempting to negotiate a deal for the fight.
Inoue is the fearsome WBO Super Flyweight Champion, who seems intent on moving up the weights, but there are plenty of interesting options on offer at his current weight, such as WBC Champion, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Britain’s WBA Champion, Kal Yafai, and IBF king, Jerwin Ancajas, to name but a few. A two weight World Champion, Inoue is one of three brothers who all box professionally, but Naoya has received the most hype, mainly due to his high percentage knockout ratio, even at World level.
Inoue turned over in 2012, and won the WBC Light Flyweight Title in just his sixth fight, by stopping Adrian Hernandez in Japan in April 2014. After one defence, stopping Wittawas Basapean, Inoue moved up to Super Flyweight, and knocked out Omar Narvaez to lift the WBO Super Flyweight Title that he currently occupies, to become a two weight World Champion in just eight fights. He has since made seven defences, six in his native Japan, and five via stoppage. He made his US debut in September 2017, stopping Antonio Nieves in six at the Stubhub Centre in California, before blowing away Yoann Boyeaux in his last outing in December in his native Japan.
If Inoue’s rise has been swift, Jamie McDonnell has come up the traditional and hard route. A professional since September 2005, McDonnell won four on the spin on points, before managing a four round draw with journeyman Dai Davies, who held a 2-5 record at the time. He would rebound and capture the English Bantamweight Title three fights later, stopping Wayne Bloy in three rounds in Doncaster, two fights after outpointing the same man over four rounds. After a routine eight round points win over Nikita Lukin, McDonnell would suffer back to back defeats, which still remain the only two defeats on his slate. Chris Edwards defeated him for the vacant British Super Flyweight Title in December 2007, and then future IBF Bantamweight Champion, Lee Haskins edged McDonnell out by one point in an eight rounder. McDonnell responded by taking a drop in class, stopping three out of four opponents, all journeyman types.
This rebuild job set up an opportunity at the British and Commonwealth Bantamweight Crowns, and McDonnell beat Ian Napa by a thin split decision to relieve Napa of his Titles. He would go from strength to strength, stopping Jerome Arnould next to lift the European Title, and then defending against Rodrigo Bracco (TKO3) and the talented Belgian, Stephane Jamoye (Majority Decision). After a Commonwealth Title defence, he then outpointed Stuart Hall in defence of his three Titles. He would defend his European belt once more, knocking out Ivan Pozo in two rounds in Sheffield.
This spelt the end of domestic action, as McDonnell chased World honours. In an IBF Bantamweight Title eliminator, McDonnell forced Darwin Zamora to retire in eight to become mandatory contender. Promoter Dennis Hobson secured crucial home advantage at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, as McDonnell lifted the World Title at the first attempt by majority decision over Julio Ceja. Boxing politics would rob McDonnell the chance to defend his newly won crown, as he fell foul of the IBF mandatory rule for failing to defend in good time against the South African, Vusi Malinga. This left Stuart Hall to pick up the belt McDonnell left behind, and the Doncaster man split with Hobson to join Eddie Hearn and Matchroom.
After two routine warm up wins, McDonnell captured the WBA “Regular” Bantamweight Title on the massive Carl Froch v George Groves II bill at Wembley Stadium, stopping the tough Thai, Tabtimtaeng Na Rachawat in ten to become a two time World Champion. A stoppage defence against Javier Nicolas Chacon followed before McDonnell travelled to Hidalgo in the USA to take on the highly regarded Japanese fighter, Tomoki Kameda, in a fight that was designed to showcase Kameda to a Worldwide audience. McDonnell managed to outpoint Kameda by one point on all three cards to cause an upset to rival many British performances overseas. He proved the win was no fluke by repeating the trick four months later in Corpus Christi, Texas, even wider this time. After defending his belt for the fourth time against Fernando Vargas (TKO9), McDonnell was rather fortunate to beat Liborio Solis via unanimous decision, when a lot of writers and fans alike adjudged the fight in Solis’ favour. This lead to a rematch last time out in Monaco in December 2017, but the conclusion was unsatisfactory. An unintentional head butt caused the fight to be halted due to a cut for McDonnell after three rounds, meaning the fight was ruled a no contest.
Rather than line up another simple defence, or face countryman Paul Butler, McDonnell clearly wants to create a legacy by becoming the first man to derail Japanese monster Inoue.
This would be an interesting watch, especially to see if Inoue’s power carries up the weights with him. It will also be intriguing to see if McDonnell can out think and out hustle Inoue to pull off a famous win.