A world of opportunity for Gavin McDonnell

Gavin McDonnell
Gavin McDonnell

When it comes to the remarkable career of Gavin McDonnell, it became obvious a while ago that he is only ever one fight away from eclipsing his previous achievements.

Progression for the Dunscroft fighter has been constant – and rapid. There are no ‘ticking over’ fights on his record.

With no amateur experience worth bringing up and not having laced a pair of gloves in the best part of a decade, he had his first professional fight in December 2010.

Little more than five years and 15 fights later he is ready to take his first step onto the world class level.

On Saturday night – in the chief support to British boxing’s most anticipated clash of the year between Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg – he will face Panama’s unbeaten Jorge Sanchez in an eliminator for the WBC super bantamweight title, with the WBC silver belt also on the line.

Victory this weekend could see McDonnell fight for a world title before the end of the year – an unbelievable prospect made believable by the fact every time he has faced a greater hurdle in his career he has crossed it with little or no fuss.

At each stage of his short career, the 29-year-old has consistently produced emphatic responses to those doubting whether he is capable of making the next step.

And he is ready to do it again on Saturday night.

“Am I ready for this? Yes,” he told the Free Press. “At the end of the day, this is the fight game.

“People can say all day long that I’m not ready. But upsets happen or you prove that you’re better than the other kid when you get in there.

“It’s not about being ready. You just have to want it and put the work in.

“Skill doesn’t always win fights. It’s about who wants it more and will go to the ends of the earth for it.

“It’s about what you’re made of.

“I believe you take your chances when they come.

“Whenever I need to be ready I will be. I’m capable of beating any fighter out there with the right preparation, the right team.

“Looking at a world title fight, ideally I’d want a couple more fights but if the chance comes in the next one, I’ll be there.

“That’s what we’re in the sport for. You’ve got to take your chances and I will take mine.”

Headliners Quigg and Frampton are the UK’s leading super bantamweights, seen as head and shoulders above the competition and behind only Guillermo Rigondeaux on the world stage.

Victory for McDonnell this weekend would edge himself closer to a legitimate challenge to any of those three fighters.

Not only does he have the opportunity to further his world title aspirations, McDonnell knows he can boost his profile on the biggest show of the year, in front of 20,000 at Manchester Arena and plenty more watching at home.

He said: “For my name to be thrown in the mix and being the chief support on probably the biggest and most talked about show of the last few years, it’s massive.

“People might not be there or watching for me but when they put the telly on or get in their seats and my fight is a few rounds in, they’re going to get a glimpse of me and it’s up to me to make them say ‘this kid is all right.’

“It’s big exposure. It throws my names out there, especially being in the same division as Frampton and Quigg.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure there will be nerves there as always but this is what you dream of as a fighter.

“It’ll prepare me for when I get the big, big fights. This is big but as you’re getting up to the level of Quigg-Frampton, you’re ticking boxes on the way up.

“I’ve fought in front of 10,000 or so in my last couple of fights and this is just bigger and better.

“I don’t know how I’ll top this. I’ll have to go out to the States.”

Opponent Sanchez will make his first, albeit belated, trip outside his native Panama. He was due to face featherweight hope Josh Warrington in December until a virus forced the Leeds fighter out of the bout.

With a 100 per cent record from his 15 fights, the 25-year-old has stopped nine early and has never boxed beyond eight rounds.

The usual research tool of YouTube has proven rather lacking in Sanchez material but McDonnell insists his own performance will dictate the fight.

“I don’t know too much about him, there’s not much footage,” he said. “He’s there for a reason though.

“He looks a bit of a banger, a bit ruthless, swinging, reckless and wild. He’s not had the 12 round fights that I’ve had but he’s not needed to.

“We just need to get in there and do what I do well.

“I think that I will be too much for him.

“There’s only myself that I can let down. If I go in there and perform to the best of my ability, then I should be able to beat him.

“We’re going off what we think and what I can do.

“We’ll concentrate on me and what I can do best, what we’ve been working on and let it all fall into place.”

Given the glory awaiting McDonnell should he triumph over Sanchez, it would be easy to look beyond this weekend’s fight.

While firmly focused on beating his Panamanian foe, he cannot help but contemplate what may lie ahead.

“It’d be nice to get the world title fight this year,” he said. “In the summer we’ll probably be going back to America for our kid’s (twin brother Jamie) title fight.

“All being well he’ll win his next fight and have a the big fight lined up in the summer.

“Maybe I’ll get to go over there later in the year.

“I want to go over to the States, do it all the hard way and live the dream – Vegas!”

Given his incredible rise to prominence, who would bet against it.