By Paul Mason
In a rare treat for UK Boxing fans, live action takes place from 1pm this Friday on Sky Sports. Jamie McDonnell travels to the Ota-City General Gymnasium, Japan, to undertake yet another tough assignment, when he meets the two weight World Champion, and highly touted Naoya Inoue. Inoue steps up to Bantamweight to challenge McDonnell for his WBA Title. McDonnell has fought outside of Britain in four of his last five outings.
It’s another commendable route that Doncaster’s McDonnell has chosen to take, and he surely has to be considered one of the most underrated British World Champions there has ever been. If he pulls off a win on Friday, it would rank up there as one of the greatest away performances by a British fighter, and open up the door to the golden ticket of the World Boxing Super Series, that Inoue has seemingly already been promised in victory on Friday.
McDonnell has come through the ranks traditionally, reigning as an English, British, Commonwealth and European Champion at Bantamweight, before winning both IBF and WBA versions of the World Title.
October 2012 saw McDonnell’s first ascent into World class. In an IBF Bantamweight Title eliminator, McDonnell forced Darwin Zamora to retire in eight to become the mandatory challenger. 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. Kameda was unbeaten in 31 fights when he met McDonnell in May 2015. 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, by an even wider margin this time, scoring a last round knockdown in the process.
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 headbutt caused the fight to be halted due to a cut for McDonnell after three rounds, meaning the fight was ruled a no contest.
McDonnell has proven in the two fights with Kameda, that he isn’t afraid to travel, and isn’t a respecter of reputation. He’s gone from strength to strength under current trainer Dave Coldwell. Inoue’s reputation is sky high, as a former WBC Light Flyweight, and WBO Super Flyweight Champion. But he has had only fifteen fights and hasn’t really been extended in those fights, with thirteen bouts not going the scheduled distance. David Carmona, who challenges Kal Yafai on Saturday night for the WBA Super Flyweight Title, is the last man to take Inoue the distance, in May 2016. But Inoue had damaged a hand during the fight, and still ran out a wide points winner.
McDonnell is certainly in with a shout in this one, despite his 4/1 odds with the bookmakers (Ladbrokes). He will need to negate Inoue’s speed and power, pretty much with the same busy blueprint that he used for the Kameda contests. He will also surely pose Inoue a tough test. Let’s hope one way or another, that Jamie McDonnell finally gets the recognition he so richly deserves from taking this bout.