McDonnell out to win at all costs

Jamie McDonnell
Jamie McDonnell

Jamie McDonnell puts it pure and simple: he has to win on Saturday night.

The Hatfield fighter will face Thailand’s Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat for the vacant WBA bantamweight title at Wembley Stadium.

Following a turbulent year during which he won a world championship, had it stripped, became embroiled in a bitter dispute with his former manager and played the waiting game for another opportunity, the 28-year-old insists victory is the only option.

“I feel like this is my chance to get my life back on track,” McDonnell told the Free Press.

“It was all so exciting last year when I won the IBF title.

“We were talking about all the big opportunities. I had offers on the table for promoters with the type of money that can change your life.

“It was all right in front of me and then it got took away without any wrong doing on my part.

“I had everything and then suddenly I had nothing.

“I get married in two weeks and we have a baby girl due later this year.

“I want to be able to provide for my wife and daughter and not be worried about bills.

“I don’t want to be back plastering full time again.

“Last year I was in the position where that was going to be the case but it was taken away from me, wrongfully.

“I have to win on Saturday, plain and simple.”

Just a year ago, McDonnell beat Julio Ceja under the stars at the Keepmoat to become the IBF bantamweight king and write his name in the history books as Doncaster’s first ever boxing world champion.

A summer of celebration quickly soured come Autumn when a first defence of his world title failed to materialise.

By October he was stripped of his crown by the IBF who ruled he had failed to agree a mandatory defence within six months of his initial triumph.

The dispute with the IBF came hand-in-hand with the explosive end to his long-term working relationship with manager Dennis Hobson, the aftermath to which continues.

McDonnell was forced to sit back and watch Stuart Hall – a man he beat three years ago in a European, Commonwealth and British title bout – claim the IBF title in his absence.

“It’s been a difficult year since I won the title,” McDonnell said.

“You reach the top and it’s all in front of you so to not be a world champion any more when I’ve not lost it is really hard to take.

“They said I didn’t sign a contract to defend the title but I never saw a contract, not until the deadline had already gone.

“I can’t talk about what happened then, why it all ended with Dennis, but it was a horrible time.

“It’s still going on now. The IBF wouldn’t sanction a final eliminator for the title because of the dispute with Dennis so I couldn’t fight for my own title.

“People say a lot of things about you when they don’t know the full story. I’ve been accused of money grabbing and all sorts but it wasn’t like that.

“Thankfully Eddie Hearn came along and he’s looked after me and got me this opportunity.”

McDonnell has worked alongside Matchroom Boxing chief Hearn since the autumn.

Two fights late last year under the Matchroom banner kept McDonnell ticking over while Hearn worked on a route back to world title glory.

McDonnell said: “It was hard to motivate myself for the couple of eight rounders at the end of last year.

“I was used to fighting for or defending titles and then all of a sudden I’m in there with easy-ish fights designed to keep me busy.

“It was frustrating for me and I wasn’t at my best.

“But Eddie stuck to his word. I was going to be on the show in Manchester in April but the IBF wouldn’t make the eliminator.

“Then Eddie offered me the WBA title fight on the Froch-Groves bill at Wembley.

“I snatched his hand off. It was worth waiting for.”

McDonnell will be part of the biggest night in British boxing for decades on Saturday night, a card topped by the blockbuster rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves.

Around 80,000 people will descend on the national stadium on the night with millions watching on around the world.

McDonnell is keen to impress in front of the huge audience.

But his primary focus is victory.

He said: “You always want to impress because that’s what gets you the opportunities.

“I’ve been determined to build my name up for a long time and get the recognition I think I deserve.

“But to be honest my only real focus is winning.

“That’s all that matters. Eddie Hearn said it to me last week. He said just do whatever it takes, however ugly that might be.”

Though unconcerned over the manner of the victory, McDonnell sees an opportunity to win in style against Na Rachawat (pictured right).

The Thai fighter has dangerous power but is rather cumbersome in his fight style.

McDonnell said: “I know I’ve got to get in there and hit and move.

“If I can be comfortable doing that then there’s a chance I can look good doing it.

“People have said this kid is not up to much but he’s third in the WBA rankings, they don’t just hand out ratings like that.

“He’s knocked out 34 kids and that takes some doing.

“I won’t be underestimating the kid at all because he’s very dangerous.

“I’m just going to concentrate on my game plan and do the business.

“I’m going to take some stopping.

“I’ve got to win this and I’m going to.”