Gavin McDonnell heads for world stage

Gavin McDonnell goes on the attack against Jeremy Parodi. Picture: Lawrence Lustig
Gavin McDonnell goes on the attack against Jeremy Parodi. Picture: Lawrence Lustig

The remarkable progress of Gavin McDonnell shows no signs of halting any time soon.

Doncaster’s McDonnell retained his European super bantamweight title with an accomplished and comfortable performance against Frenchman Jeremy Parodi at Sheffield Arena on Saturday night.

Atif Shafiq has his hand raised after victory over Jamie Robinson. Picture: Lawrence Lustig

Atif Shafiq has his hand raised after victory over Jamie Robinson. Picture: Lawrence Lustig

A performance of maturity, consideration and skill came in only his 16th professional fight - with no real amateur experience either. And at this point, few would bet against him challenging for a world title by his 20th contest.

Scorecards reading 118-110 and 117-111 [twice] showed the manner in which McDonnell controlled the contest against a tough opponent who rarely stopped coming forward.

McDonnell has got better with each fight but his progress looks to have accelerated since joining trainer Dave Coldwell in the summer.

Though it was Chris Eubank Jnr handed the task of stepping into the main event boots of the injured hometown hero Kell Brook, McDonnell delivered the headline performance in the chief support bout.

He stuck to the game plan, working behind the jab and picking shots sensibly to turn up the heat.

But the most impressive aspect of his performance was his movement and the way he made Parodi miss more often than not.

As he grew in confidence, McDonnell began to find the body and slowed the charge of Parodi as each round passed.

An incredible engine saw him fighting at almost the same pace in the final round as he did the first. And he could have perhaps chased a stoppage, though it was not really necessary with no doubt over the winner at the final bell.

The clash between Atif Shafiq and Jamie Robinson promised fireworks and it certainly delivered in what was the fight of the night.

The build-up to the fight grew ever more heated with social media spats and culminated with an outburst during the final head to head.

And the action continued from the first bell. Bolsover’s well-supported Robinson was floored with a superb uppercut from Rotherham’s Shafiq inside the first minute.

Ingle-trained Shafiq looked to be establishing full control, nullifying the man known as the ‘Ginger Rocket’ with strong use of the jab.

But Robinson roared back in third, landing meaningful shots for the first time and the fight evened out through the middle rounds.

Shafiq halted Robinson’s progress with a strong sixth round showing, denying his opponent any opportunity for offence. Robinson went hell for leather in the seventh, spurred on by a big right hand that had Shafiq rattled, but had blown himself up by the end of the round.

Shafiq was rather comfortable in the final round and took a 78-74 points decision from referee Michael Alexander to move to 15-1-0. Robinson slipped to 6-3-1.

It was a good night for the Ingle gym as Leigh Wood saw off the brave challenge of Barnsley’s Josh Wale to win their British featherweight title eliminator.

Wood answered long-asked questions about his conditioning to stay in control throughout the ten round contest.

There have never been any questions about Wale’s engine or resilience and he did not disappoint. Though the fight slipped ever further away from him, Wale never took a backward step. It had proved a difficult week for the gallant fighter with the birth of his second child just five days prior to the fight who was then kept in hospital due to an infection.

Nottingham’s Wood stayed out of trouble and kept Wale at bay through the majority of the fight before going on the run in the last few rounds. He claimed 99-91, 98-92 and 99-92 decisions from the scorecards. Wale dropped to 18-8-2 for his career.

Conisbrough’s David Allen turned in a disappointing performance in victory over French heavyweight champion Fabrice Aurieng.

Much is expected of Allen, who is taking boxing seriously for the first time in his professional career and dropped close to three stones in weight in the build-up to this fight.

His preparations were hit when scheduled opponent Adam Machaj withdrew, halting his bid for the Central Area title. After preparing for a 6ft7 orthodox fighter for several weeks, Allen found himself up against a 6ft1 southpaw.

The 23-year-old started the fight well. A right hook put Aurieng down inside the first minute and another had the Frenchman rattled, with Allen backing him up throughout the round.

But he failed to establish control for the rest of the fight with his jab evading him. It saw the fight descend into a rough and tumble brawl with rounds nicked rather than convincingly won.

Allen took a 57-56 points decision from referee Alexander though had probably done enough to justify a slightly wider margin.

The main event saw Chris Eubank Jnr blitz American Tony Jeter as expected for victory inside two rounds.

Jeter was down in the first round and simply could not cope with Eubank’s speed and power. A series of hooks on the ropes saw referee Howard Foster step in inside 30 seconds of the second round.

Earlier in the night, Conisbrough’s unbeaten Steven Hale produced a comfortable win on his first step onto the big stage, beating Dean Evans 40-37.

And Rotherham’s Lee Appleyard claimed every round of a one-sided contest against Andy Harris to move to 5-1-0.