FREE PRESS FOCUS: An exclusive in-depth interview with Jamie McDonnell

European, Commonwealth and British bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell. Picture: Trevor Price.
European, Commonwealth and British bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell. Picture: Trevor Price.

THE secret of Jamie McDonnell’s remarkable success can be exclusively revealed here – he wants to avoid going to work.

So desperate is Hatfield’s European, Commonwealth and now British bantamweight champion to put down his plasterer’s tools for good, that as soon as he returns from a break in Turkey this week he will be heading straight back in the gym.

A three week break is apparently enough following an intense ten week training camp and the epic war with Stuey Hall it was all building to.

There is of course much more driving McDonnell than simply early retirement – including world title glory – but after seeing off Hall it quickly became one of his main goals.

“For some reason I was actually looking forward to going back to work after all that training,” he said.

“But after I crawled out of bed and spent an hour at work, I wanted to go straight back in the gym.

“I was straight on the phone to (promoter) Dennis Hobson, demanding he get me a fight.

“I can’t face going to work like that for the next 40 years when I can do something about it.

“It’s not bad as motivation.”

Avoiding hard work by putting yourself through punishing training seems somewhat of a contradiction but it reflects the dedicated approach to boxing that has brought phenomenal success for McDonnell over the past two years.

The 25-year-old freely admits his focus wavered during the early years of his career but he discovered a new passion and drive after teaming up with training duo Dave Hulley and former Conisbrough pro Stefy Bull in mid-2009.

Within a few months and three fights, he had won the three belts he now carries with such pride.

And three weeks ago he snatched back the British title he vacated to pursue the European crown by out-pointing Hall at the Dome in what was undoubtedly one of the fights of the year.

McDonnell’s performance was spectacular as he perfectly executed a game plan involving constant movement of the head and feet to see him eventually outclass Hall over 12 action-packed rounds.

He now admits the high stakes nature of the bout brought about nerves for the first time in his career.

“It didn’t really sink in what was at stake until a few days before but I’d say it was the closest to being nervous I felt,” he said.

“I knew if I lost, that was probably it for me.

“I just couldn’t have seen myself having the motivation to get back up from that and carry on.

“It really was all or nothing – not just the three three belts but my entire future in boxing as well.”

McDonnell is full of praise for Darlington fighter Hall who he admits he perhaps underestimated.

He said: “The fight was harder than I thought because I genuinely believed I would stop him in six rounds.

“I dismissed it as a backward step when people were first talking about it but it was an important step for me.

“I don’t think I wore him down really until the last couple of rounds.

“He’d had plenty of notice and trained for that fight as hard as any other.

“He made life incredibly difficult for me so it was an even better feeling when I won.”

The bout created possibly the best atmosphere the Dome has seen for a boxing contest as Hall’s band of followers from the North East engaged in vociferous yet good-natured banter with the huge Doncaster support.

McDonnell was roared all the way to victory but admits he did not hear the crowd until after the final bell.

He said: “I’ve been told by everyone the atmosphere was the best they have ever experienced but to be honest I didn’t have a clue what was going on outside the ropes.

“When I fought Stephane Jamoye there in January I really savoured the atmosphere, which was fantastic then.

“But I must have been so focused against Hall that I blocked everything out.”

The victory brought a new level of recognition to McDonnell as prior to the fight he remained relatively unknown outside his home town, even among large sections of the boxing community.

Now few would deny McDonnell’s skill and the extraordinary grit and heart he demonstrated against Hall and in beating Jamoye in another fight of the year candidate.

Negotiating the Hall-shaped obstacle appears to have been the final step for McDonnell before ascending to the world level.

And like his new found supporters and those who have followed him since he turned pro, McDonnell is confident he is ready.

“I think I’ve made a name for myself with that win,” he said.

“It was definitely good to show people they might have underestimated me a little bit.

“I put in a great performance in a great fight and won so people are now talking about me as a potential world title contender.

“The mandatory defence will come first but then I want to be fighting someone in the top seven in the world, getting up to that level.

“I wouldn’t want to be making five defences of the European title without moving on because although the money would be good, I’d quickly get bored of that.

“I need to be moving forward and that’s why I fancy interim world title fights to get myself ranked because I’m only ranked by the WBC.

“And from there, who knows?”