On Saturday night in a tight little venue one twin shall attempt to come out from the shadow of another as Gavin McDonnell, 16-0-2, 4 KO’s, seeks to win the WBC super bantamweight title against Rey Vargas, 28-0, 22 KO’s, and finally join his brother, Jamie McDonnell, 29-2-1, 13 KO’s, as a world champion. Jamie is already the WBA bantamweight title holder and will be in the corner helping his twin make the step up to legendary status amongst the McDonnell fans.
Gavin has always been to many, in the street and in the minds of the boxing fraternity, Jamie’s brother. He gets noticed as Jamie’s brother, not as Gavin, but now he has the chance of being the guy who is more talked about than referred to.
But there is no bitter rivalry behind the scene to spur either on as Jamie has given Gavin as much support out of the ring as encouragement within it. Jamie turned pro 5 years before Gavin so there was a real time delay in getting to world championships status for Gavin. It was only in 2014 that Gavin got his hands on the British title – a year AFTER Jamie had become a world title holder – Jamie won the IBF bantamweight belt in 2013. Jamie though had been the inspiration for Gavin to turn pro as it was after watching Jamie claim the European title that Gavin decided he would take the plunge.
Initially many, including his own family thought he would not go far. It was not long before that assessment was challenged and put to bed as Gavin started gaining titles and respectability. When Jamie won the European title, a little the worse for alcohol consumption he jumped up to announce if our kid can do it so can I… The family laughed heartily, he got in the gym, trained and got the titles to back up his boast.
On Saturday night, he faces that old cliché – the hardest fight of his career. Rey Vargas is not in the UK for a payday and is certainly no walkover. The fight in Hull, is just close to Doncaster, where the twins hail from. They have a determined support who will rock the Ice Arena in Hull and make it a red hot atmosphere for Mexican, Vargas.
Vargas has talked of how he thinks that the home judges might be biased thus making few friends before he arrives in the UK. He told Sky Sports, “I know the judges could be an issue. In fact, a gym mate of mine, Julio Ceja, fought his brother and won, but they robbed him. The idea is to go for the knockout otherwise they could rob you.” Jamie won that IBF title against Julio Ceja, a gym mate of Vargas. Vargas went further in his interview, “It shows a bit of cowardice, not on him but on his team because they don’t want him to fight outside his country as they know he’ll lose. But I do trust that the WBC are fair and they will be neutral – the best man will win. I’d be very proud to take the WBC belt home.”
On paper, Vargas is by far the more experienced in the pro game as he has had 10 more fights than Gavin and has never lost nor drawn a fight. Gavin has 2 draws and no defeats. Vargas also boasts 22 knockouts and his punching power is a real threat and danger to Gavin – Gavin has only 4 stoppages.
Gavin though, is a durable fighter, who has shown unbelievable resistance to take the heat and keep in the kitchen. Winning by points is his way and there are few better than Gavin at doing it. His humility endears him as he was the guy who having won a European belt thought, this is as good as it gets for me. He had thought the same winning an Area belt and then the British title. There are many who think, this is his time to take the prestigious green belt on Saturday night. There are many who think that he shall go on and do the hoovering up of the belts in his weight class.
The enormity of Saturday night clearly weighs heavily on his mind as reporters who have met him over the last week or so have spoken and written of his intense energy and nervousness. Having seen how it blew David Price out recently perhaps that is not a plus for Gavin but we all know the effect of adrenalin on a fight. Come Saturday night the whole hall will be filed with adrenaline and a hostile atmosphere that Vargas may find causes his own anxieties – perhaps for the first time in his career – to come to haunt him.
The major things about this plasterer to trade is that this fight would open up riches the likes of which his time on a construction site would only let him read in newspapers and not experience. His career can emulate his brothers and even eclipse it – he is THAT good.
There is a determination within him that is not only impressive it is also steely. The fight on Saturday has him as the underdog but if he fails to take the belt it shall be because he will be sparked out, not because he did not put in the fight of his life. I reckon we have a new British world champion in the making though people who see Vargas as the likely winner have lots of evidence in their locker that this will happen. Gavin McDonnell has the heart and a pair of cohones that have put him in the ring and in the mix for a belt around his weight. The most chuffed guy in the hall that night will have a similar smile, a similar story and a similar pride in his achievement – his brother and soon to be fellow world champion, Jamie.
Perhaps the shadow won’t go away, just have another figure join it as the brothers get ready to dominate the bantamweight and super bantamweight/featherweight divisions from 2017 onwards; Saturday is day one on that journey…
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