HATFIELD boxing sensation Jamie McDonnell moved a step closer to a potential world title tilt by retaining his European bantamweight strap in an epic war with tough prospect Stephane Jamoye.
McDonnell took the gruelling 12 round contest on a majority points decision with a demonstration of true grit and determination against the unrelenting young Belgian.
And promoter Frank Maloney insists McDonnell can challenge for world gold by the end of the year if he can maintain the pace of remarkable development.
The performances put in by the 24-year-old over the last 12 months have certainly demonstrated world class qualities, especially in the resolve shown.
McDonnell demonstrated unrivalled guts and determination to beat Ian Napa and Jerome Arnould for the British and European titles respectively.
But his efforts at the Doncaster Dome last Saturday night overshadowed even those brilliant performances.
Jamoye is tipped to become Belgium’s first ever world champion and the highly skilled 21-year-old showed exactly why in taking McDonnell to the very brink.
The Dome has not witnessed an atmosphere as electric for some time and the noise was deafening as McDonnell made his way to the ring.
But Jamoye soon turned down the volume as he took the fight to the home town hero.
McDonnell sought to keep the fight at distance but Jamoye refused to play the game.
The Liege native came forward throwing punches with both hands and it needed some neat footwork by McDonnell to stay out of danger.
But he soon found himself in the worst trouble of his career so far as he walked into a powerful right hand.
McDonnell’s eyes glazed over and he staggered onto the ropes, drawing a gasp from the packed crowd.
But even with Jamoye advancing, he managed to hold on and actually finished the round the stronger of the two.
McDonnell never looked back after the scare and was in control of the contest until the later stages, using the body punches he made his name with.
Jamoye was never far behind however, and battled back in the later rounds to ensure doubt over the outcome.
The Belgian’s chances were boosted when McDonnell was deducted a point in the 11th round for repeated barging with the shoulder.
The rather pernickety French referee repeatedly stepped between the two fighters and had warned McDonnell about shoving throughout the fight.
Jamoye capitalised on McDonnell’s frustration and took the round, laying the foundations for a blistering finale.
The final round painted a picture of the entire contest with both men giving everything to seal victory.
And the points scores given by the judges provided an accurate tale of how close the two were.
McDonnell took the decision on two of the judges scorecards – 115-113 and 114-113 – with the third scoring the contest even at 114-114.
The nip and tuck nature of the contest will see some clamour for a rematch between the two.
Perhaps the world stage is the best place for such a contest.
n MCDONNELL’S twin brother Gavin was left disappointed after his scheduled fight on the undercard was called off when opponent Chuck Jones arrived in Doncaster way over the featherweight limit.
McDonnell had hoped to fight at super bantamweight and had allowed Jones some leeway but he weighed in several pounds over.
His next outing is set for the Doncaster Dome on March 4.