Tuesday, January 31, 2023  |



Jamie McDonnell on cloud nine following Tomoki Kameda victory

Jamie McDonnell (L) on his way to a 10th-round TKO of Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat on May 31, 2014, in London. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

Jamie McDonnell (L) on his way to a 10th-round TKO of Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat on May 31, 2014, in London. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

When British bantamweight Jamie McDonnell prevailed via unanimous decision over Tomoki Kameda last weekend in Texas he deserved credit for more than just an outstanding victory over a formidable opponent.

Boxing is replete with uncertainty. The business side of the sport is a perpetual tightrope and things can get a lot crazier when the opening bell sounds. McDonnell, a heavy underdog, was faced with the customary pitfalls, plus other dilemmas, prior to taking part in his first overseas contest as a professional.

Originally McDonnell, holder of a regular WBA belt at bantamweight, was advised that Kameda’s WBO strap would also be on the line. This fell through when the Japanese star was stripped of his title because McDonnell wasn’t ranked by the WBO. Things weren’t about to get any easier. Dave Hulley, the fighter’s trainer, has an extreme fear of flying and was unable make the trip. At the eleventh hour he was replaced by Dave Coldwell, a highly capable coach, who also manages McDonnell. By fight night the visitor was ready, but would all this upheaval hamper his performance?

Editor’s Note: THE RING only recognizes Juan Carlos Payano as WBA champion at 118 pounds.

“I had to put all of the distractions to the back of my mind,” said McDonnell, who is rated No. 5 by THE RING at bantamweight. “We knew about Dave’s troubles with flying so my manager Dave Coldwell, Tony Harrison and Tony Bellew flew out to be with me. I refused to focus on the negatives and I just had to get on with it.

“I was written off from the start and I’m not surprised because everything was stacked against me in Texas. Only my team and a small group of people truly believed that I would go out there and pull it off. From the start I genuinely believed that I was going smash Kameda to bits.”

Kameda couldn't follow up on heavy knockdown

Kameda couldn’t follow up on heavy knockdown

While McDonnell may not have smashed Kameda, he did get off to a bright start before adversity confronted him in a flash. The Yorkshire man was boxing his typical pattern, moving laterally while firing quick bursts, when the Japanese power puncher suddenly floored him with a huge right hand in the third.

“That was a great shot and I wish I’d hit him with it,” laughed McDonnell.

“That was the first time I’d ever been dropped and it was more of a shocker than anything else. I would have bet anything before the fight that I wouldn’t go down but this is boxing and you’re going to get hit sometimes.

“I’m tough and I’ve taken every shot there is to take but despite the fact that we’d worked hard on avoiding it, I didn’t see that right hand coming. I just had to get up, go back to work, and by the next round it was out of my system.”

A superbly conditioned athlete, which McDonnell is, can shake off a concussive head shot but getting up from the knockdown was a game changer. The underdog reconfigured his defenses, released his punches at the right times and relied on his advantages in size and volume for the remainder of the contest.

“I always knew I would be bigger, stronger and busier,” said McDonnell, who improved to 26-2-1, 12 knockouts. “As the fight progressed I didn’t tire, so towards the end I upped the pace. If we were to have a rematch I wouldn’t leave it so late to pour it on because I had plenty left in the tank for rounds eleven and twelve.

“I had it in my head that I would stop Kameda and when it went to the judges’ scorecards I was worried that I wouldn’t get the decision. I knew I’d won but I’m away from home, the kid is undefeated, he’s destined for big things over there, plus he’d scored a knockdown. It was all stacked against me but I was so happy when they announced me as the winner.”

Despite the victory being recognized there was an ample amount of talk in the U.K. that the performance wasn’t quite given the attention it merited. McDonnell has done it all as a professional and is unbeaten over the past eight years but Kameda, a prohibitive 3/1 on favorite, was expected to walk straight through him.

Does the fighter feel shortchanged by a lack of enthusiasm from fans and media at home?

“Definitely,” said McDonnell sharply as his jovial tone evaporated. “I’ve essentially just won another world title because Kameda’s WBO belt should have been mine. If it was Kell Brook, or someone else they all get behind, then everyone would be pumping it up right now.

“What can you do? We’ll see if people look upon me as the real deal in this weight class, or if there is a change in attitude now. I’ve proven myself time and time again and hopefully, if there’s a rematch, or if I fight another champion, people will get behind me.”

McDonnell is a down to earth family man who lives the life despite freely admitting that he is not a fan of the sport. The paradox with this fresh faced 29-year-old is that he is a real fighting man and, only a week after claiming this defining victory, he is already plotting his next move.

“There has been talk of a rematch with Kameda in Las Vegas,” said McDonnell with an edge of excitement in his voice. “I don’t care where it is because I’ll be even more confident now that I’ve got a win over him. People know what I’m capable of and some fighters just have it in them to grind it out.

“I’ve taken his best shot, got back up, and won.”

While McDonnell may not have received the fanfare accorded to British stars like Carl Froch, or the aforementioned Kell Brook, he has ascended the ladder. If a fighter keeps winning then sooner or later people will take notice and a victory over a top operator like Kameda (31-1, 19 knockouts) will not be forgotten in a hurry.

“This is up there with winning my first world championship,” said McDonnell, who won the vacant IBF bantamweight title with a unanimous decision against Julio Ceja in May 2013.

“The difference is there’s a greater sense of accomplishment now because I’m 29 years old, married, and I have a baby. When I was with my wife after the fight I was in tears because I’d overcome the odds and won fair and square.

“I earned a massive payday, which will clear my mortgage, plus I’ve guaranteed myself another big payday in the near future. I am motivated by money but would never fight for that and that alone. Winning this one was a proud moment for me and I’m still buzzing.”

Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing