Jamie McDonnell has had a forgettable last few months but the Doncaster bantamweight has a shot at redemption on the undercard to the Carl Froch-George Groves rematch at Wembley this weekend, writes David Charlesworth.
McDonnell could have been forgiven for thinking he would be a headline attraction after capturing the IBF title at 118lbs with a battling majority decision victory over hard-hitting Mexican Julio Ceja in front of his hometown fans just over a year ago.
On that night at the Keepmoat Stadium, the South Yorkshireman and Sheffield promoter Dennis Hobson were immediately eyeing up potential unification bouts, but their relationship soon turned sour and a contractual dispute ended with McDonnell being stripped of his title.
What perhaps made the IBF’s decision all the more painful is that compatriot Stuart Hall, who McDonnell beat by tight decision in 2011, would go on to capture the vacant crown in December last year.
McDonnell, meanwhile, has returned to the ring and beaten two low-key opponents in a couple of eight-round bouts since joining Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable, but now has the opportunity to catapult himself onto the world stage.
The 28-year-old, who admitted in the build-up to his fight with Ceja that he is not even a boxing fan, is bidding to become a two-time world champion when he takes on Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat of Thailand for the vacant WBA bantamweight title.
And McDonnell (23-2-1, 10KOs) is in no doubt that he will emerge successful.
“My life’s on the line in this fight, I need to win this fight, everything happens in this fight. Those big paydays are going to come once I get this title,” he said.
“I’m going to win this world title, put my name back on the map and go and unify it.”
Not much is known about Na Rachawat although a record of 52 victories from 54 professional contests is impressive enough, even if he has never been matched against anyone of McDonnell’s calibre and has not fought outside his native Thailand.
McDonnell has won his last 15 bouts, since suffering back-to-back defeats against Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins six years ago, and is now desperate to continue that run and make a statement on the bill in front of a bumper crowd at Wembley.
“I’m back on top form fighting for the world title. I should have defended that (IBF) title a couple of times, but to be on this big stage, fighting at Wembley, it doesn’t get any bigger,” he said.
“It’s a massive stage all across the world to show people what I’m about and I do believe, 100 per cent, that I’m the best at bantamweight, and I’ll go out there and prove it.”