Jamie McDonnell has had one hell of a year.
The Doncaster bantam had amassed a modest 12 wins from 15 career contests coming into 2010, yet in the space of just three short months he’d managed to snatch British, Commonwealth and European titles with a brace of smash and grab raids that helped usher him in from the cold.
McDonnell bagged the first two of those straps after pipping Hackney veteran Ian Napa in Essex, adding the little guy’s shot at European honours into the bargain. Seizing this hitherto unforeseen opportunity with both hands, the lanky kid with the classic, upright British style stunned the La Palestre crowd in the picturesque Alpes-Maritimes region of France with a dominant stoppage victory over local man and heavy betting favourite, Jerome Arnould.
On Saturday evening, this time in the more convivial surroundings of his South Yorkshire hometown, McDonnell makes the second defence of the title he plundered that day, one which found its way to him via the likes of Alan Rudkin, Johnny Owen and Naseem Hamed, canny little operators all.
His opponent, Stephane Jamoye, can be forgiven for assuming the fates are carrying his spit bucket prior to this one. The Belgian is the fourth man to have been pasted onto the publicity posters alongside McDonnell after Benjamin Pitteloud, Ivan Pozo and Malik Bouziane all fell by the wayside for one reason or another, issues that Jamie refuses to dwell on.
“It wa’ a bit of a ball-ache,” he explained in his thick Yorkshire brogue, “but we’ve had plenty of notice, we’ve had four weeks to look at this kid, so it hasn’t really been too much of a problem.”
A persistent sort, Jamoye, rather than being the inferior substitute many might presume, is probably the toughest nut to crack of the lot. McDonnell has his work cut out here, which he readily acknowledged.
“I think this’ll be my hardest fight to date. He’s only young, he’s fresh, he’s been very active and he’ll be coming for this title,” he said. “This has been the best camp I’ve probably had, the best I’ve felt making weight and I’ve made it quite comfortably, especially with it being over Christmas. I missed a few sessions getting to the gym with the snow we’ve had, but apart from that, everything’s gone bang on.”
Jamoye 19-1 (9) is busy and compact and will look to impose himself steadily upon McDonnell through each passing round. He throws a decent right hand, digs to the body whenever a sniff of a chance presents itself and chops away with punches up close. His only career reverse thus far came against the youngest of Japan’s fighting Kameda brothers (Tomoki) on away ground in Mexico, a 10-rounder which was initially totted up as a draw but later switched to a one-point victory for the Japanese. It’s the type of loss which cannot be held against its carrier too harshly, much like McDonnell’s own nip and tuck defeats to Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, though the first of those left a dent.
“After the Edwards fight me head went down” he admitted. “For the Haskins fight I wasn’t really up for it. I can remember walking to the ring thinking I’m not bothered if I win or lose but I picked myself up, knuckled down and proved that I could win titles.” And then some.
McDonnell will tower over his challenger. At 5’8” and with a 71-inch reach, he holds similar dimensions to the “Bionic Bantam” himself, the aforementioned Owen. There’s a faint look of the Welshman about Jamie, it has to be said, a vague physical resemblance which brings to mind fond memories of Merthyr’s beloved fighting son. Whereas Johnny would hunker down, eager to get amongst the thick of the action, McDonnell uses his height to box tall, a tactic he believes will pay dividends on Saturday.
“In this fight it’ll be very important ‘cos he’s only small,” he ventured, although his team figure he isn’t as short as he has been listed as and certainly not as diminutive as the crafty Napa, who proved difficult to pin down in their fight and bothersome in the pocket. McDonnell though, has been learning fast.
“Me inside work’s just as good as me outside work now,” he enthused. He’s also punching harder, ridding himself of four opponents within schedule in his last five outings. “I think that comes with confidence” he opined. “I’m feeling really strong.”
McDonnell will look to attack Jamoye from range, jabbing smoothly before dropping his right hand in over the top of his man’s guard. Jamoye can pull his head back quite amateurishly at times when under fire, and if Jamie can feint him effectively, he can carve out openings for himself. Whilst the Belgian will be stubborn and game, McDonnell’s neat boxing and fine work ethic should see him home to a well deserved victory over the distance.
Once the smoke settles this weekend, Jamie will return to work alongside his brother as a tradesman — a plasterer to be exact. It’s something he enjoys, a sideline to keep him active and ticking over until the phone rings again with details of his next match. He sounds chipper — tickets are selling well, he tells me — and he’s expecting a packed house on Saturday.
“It’ll probably be the best night I’ve had in Doncaster.”
For now, at least.
McDonnell is too tight a favourite at 1/4. In what will surely be a taxing encounter for both men, Jamoye looks good value out at 11/4. McDonnell on points can be grabbed at around evens.
Sky Sports televise this Maloney Promotions bill live in the UK.
(Photo by Chris Bevan)