Jamie McDonnell survives Monte Carlo gamble

Jamie McDonnell has his hand raised at the end of his war with Liborio Solis in Monte Carlo

Jamie McDonnell has his hand raised at the end of his war with Liborio Solis in Monte Carlo

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Jamie McDonnell was far from five star but edged his way through the fifth defence of his WBA bantamweight title.

The Doncaster fighter was awarded a unanimous points decision in his voluntary defence against Liborio Solis, with the scoring of the judges proving controversial.

Liborio Solis lands a left hook on Jamie McDonnell

Liborio Solis lands a left hook on Jamie McDonnell

The reaction on television and social media afterwards certainly suggested plenty believed McDonnell has used up his share of luck in the Monte Carlo casino which housed the bout.

He claimed scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 117-111 – the latter of which from American judge Robert Hoyle was scandalously wide.

Such wide judgements on the scorecards ensured plenty of debate over the validity of the decision.

But it is the belief of this writer that McDonnell won the fight, with a vastly improved performance in the later rounds giving him a 116-113 verdict – not taking anything away from Solis.

Jamie McDonnell mounts some pressure against Liborio Solis

Jamie McDonnell mounts some pressure against Liborio Solis

The Venezuelan offered up arguably, and somewhat surprisingly, the toughest examination of any of the five defences. It may have been a voluntary defence but McDonnell could hardly have handpicked a tougher outing.

Solis applied pressure from the first bell to the last, coming forward and throwing huge shots.

Terrier-like, he nullified the six inch height advantage McDonnell had by never taking a backward step.

The reason he did not make it count more was that he was only effective in bursts – albeit threatening bursts – in the majority of rounds.

He loaded up often and threw plenty of big punches, looking to land the right hand at every turn.

But he did not land nearly enough clean shots to truly dominate rounds. McDonnell showed good head movement to slip shots and also absorbed plenty on his gloves.

While he may have had the edge over the 12 rounds, McDonnell was rarely convincing as he turned in probably the most cagey performance of his career.

Perhaps wary of Solis’ power – which twice downed leading bantamweight Shinsuke Yamanaka earlier this year – the Doncaster fighter seemed reluctant to engage.

He worked the jab pretty well throughout the fight but did not begin to string shots together until the later rounds.

It was improvement that was certainly needed. He was almost certainly behind heading into the final third of the fight.

Prior to that, he had been given plenty to think about.

Blood dripped from his nose early in the second after a barrage of shots from Solis.

The former two division super flyweight world champion roared from the start of the fourth, forcing McDonnell back with incredible aggression.

Solis was on top in the middle rounds, his accuracy improving as he began to use his jab more, popping the left through the guard.

But late rallies have become somewhat of a trademark for McDonnell and he did not disappoint.

Renewed in the ninth, he began to string shots together for the first real time. The left hook, which has been such a potent weapon in the past, finally came into play and he managed to rock Solis was a particularly flush one in the dying seconds of the round.

McDonnell looked much more like himself in the tenth as punches began to flow, particularly to the body with Solis for the first time looking a shade one dimensional.

The final round was an all-out war between two men clearly instructed to go out and make sure of a decision. McDonnell dealt with early pressure well, rolling Solis on several occasions but the Venezuelan landed a couple of heavy shots midway through the round.

Both fighters let everything go in the dying seconds but McDonnell produced the cleaner work. The relief however when the decision was announced was palpable.

As he hopes for a major name in his next fight – one which could prove to be his bantamweight swansong – both the decision and performance on Saturday night mean McDonnell will undoubtedly have question marks hanging over him when he next steps through the ropes.

But he will do so still clutching his WBA title.