With all due respect to both Matthew Hatton and Andrei Abramenka, whose argument in Blackpool a couple of weeks back signaled an end to boxing’s close season in the U.K., a more fitting curtain raiser to what looks an exciting term ahead is offered in the guise of a bantamweight summit meeting diarised for Doncaster on Saturday. European and Commonwealth kingpin Jamie McDonnell and British counterpart Stuart Hall seek to settle their score in a showdown between domestic rivals who made massive strides in 2010-11.
Blue-collar beanpoles McDonnell and Hall rocketed to the top of their class last year after battling past long-standing British boss, Ian Napa. An affable Yorkshireman and self-employed plasterer, McDonnell, 17-2-1 (7), blossomed after besting Napa and then Frenchman Jerome Arnould in quick succession – both times as a prohibitive underdog.
Hall is a converted hedonist from the North East. After McDonnell opted to hand back his Lonsdale belt in order to concentrate on a European title defence, the Darlington man was presented with a most unlikely chance. In front of rabid home support in County Durham, Hall made good on his opportunity — forcing the ubiquitous Napa to quit on his stool after eight rounds and snaffling the discarded strap in only his ninth paid start.
Since then, they have steadily converged upon one another. Hall has defended successfully thrice, while in the meantime, McDonnell has turned back European challengers Rodrigo Bracco and Stephane Jamoye followed by Kenyan Nick Otieno in defence of his Commonwealth crown.
At 5’8”, both stand freakishly tall for the weight — praying mantises the pair. Hall, 11-0-1 (7), is an intense sort with a spit-in-your-eye manner and a no-nonsense tack. Boxing tall and with his hands held high he looks a tad rigid and upright at times, yet his pressing is effective and his conditioning first rate.
McDonnell too, is a cardio wizard. The spindly, Mexborough-trained man appears longer of limb than his opponent and less compact as a result. He punches with good variation and often in combination, attacking from angles he crafts well for himself on approach. A keen body puncher, McDonnell can be tagged when hooking downstairs and despite having been bothered in bouts as a result, he has been both fit and resilient enough to ride out any crises.
Mentally, Hall might just have the edge. McDonnell has seen fit to gripe about the British king’s worthiness as an opponent, grumbling that the match is a backward step, whereas Hall, six years the older man at 31, will see this as his personal zenith — two wildly opposing mindsets. Unless McDonnell can control events as he has imagined he will from the get-go, thereby qualifying his assertions he belongs to a higher class — he could very well find himself growing discouraged as Hall’s temerity, in contrast, continues to swell.
In an absorbing contest, the sort which is often saddled with the term “trade fight” — a tag assigned to a quality match-up that will unjustly pass the majority of spectators by — McDonnell’s work rate can override Hall’s more direct punching to clinch a hard fought decision win. Hall will have his moments, especially with his straight right hand down the middle, yet one suspects that the home fighter can rally himself sufficiently at such moments to pull out a grueling victory in an early season cracker.
McDonnell has been lodged as early favourite at odds of 11/13, with Hall out at 6/5. Those who fancy Hall would be wise to plump for a stoppage upset, which can be found somewhere in the region of 5/1 while McDonnell via the long route is a far more conservative 11/8.