COMMENT: Jamie McDonnell - the underdog that knows how to bite

McDonnell lands a clean hook against Julio Ceja
McDonnell lands a clean hook against Julio Ceja

There was to be no anti-climax, no disappointment. Only joy, relief and celebration.

It could easily have gone so wrong at the Keepmoat last weekend, particularly had the phenomenally powerful Julio Ceja managed to land a clean big shot.

But there was nothing to worry about.

McDonnell was confident of victory from the moment the bout was announced and his performance come fight time did not betray that assuredness.

This was quite simply the best performance of a thrilling career so far, largely because it featured all the hallmarks of McDonnell’s rise to the top.

He was resilient, brave, strong and dominant. But most of all he was incredibly skilful.

“The most exciting thing about Jamie is that he’s still improving and that’s scary,” manager Dennis Hobson said afterwards.

There was a great deal of truth in Hobson’s words.

So many times on his rise to the top has McDonnell been labelled the underdog.

He was not expected to beat Ian Napa for the British title and given no chance of returning from a trip to France with the European title. Even in his hometown against a Mexican who had never fought outside his own country was McDonnell named as the outsider.

But on each occasion he has proved the doubters wrong.

His boxing skills are incredible and getting better. He follows the gameplan laid down by trainers Dave Hulley and Stefy Bull to the letter. And – all credit to the pair – the gameplan works. Sticking and moving had Ceja tied in knots at times under the stars at the Keepmoat.

McDonnell’s dedication may have been questionable in the past and I’m sure there were more than a few moments when trainer Hulley wished he had hair to tear out as he tried to guide McDonnell through the camp.

But there was definitely something a little extra about McDonnell in the ring on Saturday night.

He had repeatedly assured he was in the best shape of his life heading into his meeting with Ceja. What was on show in the ring proved that. McDonnell’s fitness was incredible. He never looked tired despite never having space to breathe as he ducked and weaved away from Ceja’s assault.

And then there was the brilliance of the final round – probably the finest three minute period of his career.

Showing stamina levels you would expect in the first round of the fight, McDonnell produced a brilliant assault to threaten the stoppage his opponent was tipped for.

As he plots world domination there is no doubt that McDonnell will be the underdog again. But this underdog is getting better and better with his bite.