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Jamie McDonnell: The winner does not take it all

Photo: Action Images
08
Nov

Winning is rarely, if ever, referred to as a nasty habit but British bantamweight stalwart Jamie McDonnell must feel like he’s the exception.

The British title? McDonnell won it. The Commonwealth title? McDonnell won it. The European title? McDonnell won it? The world title? McDonnell won it. The problem is that boxing bleeds inequity and a terrific pro continues to fly under the radar despite being unbeaten for almost nine years.

This Saturday, McDonnell ventures to the hard-nosed gambling locale of Monte Carlo to face former unified junior bantamweight titleholder Liborio Solis. Despite the Venezuelan’s world level credentials, there are very few pundits predicting that McDonnell will lose the shirt off his back.

People have grown old waiting for this man to lose.

“(Solis) is going to bring a tough fight,” said McDonnell, who hails from, and resides in, Doncaster, England. “He knows the game, he’s experienced and he’s a tough kid. I think he’ll be very confident because he dropped (Shinsuke) Yamanaka and gave him a tough fight (before losing on points).

“He’ll be bringing his A-Game, so if I’m not on point then I could slip up and get beat. But I’m more than ready now. I’ve been in the gym for 15 weeks and I’ve been smashing it for 10 weeks, doing everything perfect. I’m feeling fit and strong and I’m looking forward to getting in that ring and having a fight.”

McDonnell is rated No. 1 by THE RING at bantamweight behind Yamanaka, who is champion. He defeated Julio Ceja to claim the IBF belt in May 2013 but lost it to politics. He defeated Tomoki Kameda away from home and then repeated the feat just to make sure. The previously unbeaten Kameda had been stripped of the WBO belt just prior to facing the Englishman.

With stats like that, McDonnell (28-2-1, 13 KOs) should be writing his own ticket but, amazingly, he is still campaigning. In fact, he talks like he has it all to prove. Ask him if he’d travel to the U.S. for (WBA titleholder) Rau’shee Warren, or if he’d take a 12-hour flight to Japan for (WBC titleholder) Yamanaka and he’ll look at you like you have two heads.

“Nothing like that fazes me,” laughed McDonnell. “If anything, it takes a little bit of pressure off. I’d definitely travel for either of those fights. If you believe you’re the best, a ring is a ring and I believe I’d beat them anyway. As long as I’m 100 percent and I’ve had a good camp, I believe I’d destroy them both.

“Warren has got a good name. He’s been about on the amateur scene and he’s a newly crowned world champion (after) beating (Juan Carlos) Payano. I’d love to fight Yamanaka but if they can’t get things sorted by early next year then I’m going to move up. I’m not hanging about and those are the only two big fights at bantamweight.”

McDonnell backtracked on that statement and said he would also consider a fight with IBF belt holder Lee Haskins, the last man to defeat him, but his bantamweight clock is ticking. It is somewhat disconcerting to think that after everything he’s done, McDonnell could move north without receiving the appropriate recognition at home or abroad.

Anyone with a finger on the boxing pulse knows that it takes more than triumph to crossover to elite status. That is demonstrable. McDonnell is a dedicated family man who avoids trouble and enjoys a holiday. He would rather be seen with his wife than a noisy entourage and being wholesome in the boxing business rarely sells.

“I’ve not captured people but it is what it is,” admitted McDonnell. “Maybe it is my personality. I enjoy what I do. I just go into training, I do my thing and I get my money. All I can do is keep winning and I’ll be happy. Maybe the recognition comes when I’m just about to retire.

“It is frustrating but boxing people know that Solis is a tough opponent. This is a genuine challenge for me. It may not be 50/50 but it’s about 60/40. A few people will pick me to win but it’s no pushover. It’s a good fight, a good test and then hopefully I can fight Yamanaka or Warren. Let’s prove who’s the best in the division.”

The opportunity to prove that is the very least Jamie McDonnell deserves.

*Editor’s Note: McDonnell will be defending a version of the WBA bantamweight title against Solis that is unrecognized by THE RING.

Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

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