JAMIE McDonnell was out to prove himself once and for all in last weekend’s European title clash.
For most people who witnessed his epic battle against world class bantamweight Stephane Jamoye he did just that, as he claimed a well deserved majority points verdict.
But you wouldn’t have thought so had you seen him in an emotional state in the dressing room after the fight.
McDonnell, who is his own biggest critic, was almost in tears as he felt he had not fought his best on the night.
But joint trainer Stefy Bull was having none of that and said he should be proud of himself after one of the grittiest performances seen in a Doncaster ring.
The 24-year-old Hatfield plasterer has bags of talent and we probably have not seen the best of him yet.
There are plenty of outstanding boxing champions in the country - some with more skill and punching power than McDonnell.
But if there is anyone who possesses more grit, determination or a bigger fighting heart than the unassuming Hatfield man I have yet to see him lace a glove.
McDonnell has an incredible iron will to win and is emerging as the best all round fighter to come out of these parts since heavyweight idol Bruce Woodcock more than sixty years ago.
Woodcock himself had three European title fights and won the lot - including one against the great Freddie Mills.
McDonnell chalked up his own hat trick on Saturday and one more successful defence will surpass even the Balby legend.
There was an electric atmosphere before the two fighters came into the ring with football supporters from different parts of Yorkshire among the near capacity crowd taunting each other.
Thankfully they came together behind the local man and Jamoye was soundly booed when he cockily made his entrance sporting a sparkling silver coloured trilby.
But the outstanding 21-year-old Belgian had faced partisan crowds in Spain and Mexico in the past so Doncaster on a Saturday night held no fears for him.
Jamoye carried his confidence into the ring when the bout started, taking the fight to McDonnell from the first bell.
The local man’s tactics were to keep the fight at long range but that was easier said than done against an opponent with fast hands who was keen to make a fast start.
Jamoye came forward throwing punches with both hands and it needed some neat footwork by McDonnell to stay out of danger.
McDonnell tried to deter his rival with a heavy left hook in round two but then walked into a powerful right hand that staggered him against the ropes.
It was the hardest shot he had taken in his career to date and he looked in trouble.
But he managed to hold on and clear his head before firing back with some dangerous shots of his own.
Bull said later: “It was a cracking punch that caught him and I was worried straightaway.
“There am I thinking has Jamie reached his level and is this kid too good and, while I’m thinking that, Jamie’s come through it and is fighting back.
“I’ll be honest, I had 37 fights as a professional and if I had taken a punch like that I’d have been in two minds whether to come out for the next round.
“But Jamie’s not like that.
“He’s a real fighter, and that sort of thinking just never enters his head.
“That’s the difference between fighters who compete at domestic and world level.
“Jamie probably doesn’t know what the word ‘quit’ means.
“If he takes a punch it just makes him more determined.”
He added: “I’m proud to know him - let alone be his trainer - what a fighter.”
Although McDonnell can in no way be compared to legends such as Roberto Duran and Manny Pacquiao there is certainly something of the macho man about him.
He said: “I’ve never liked holding on.
“I think it’s a sign of weakness, and I’d rather fight my way out of trouble.
“But the corner were yelling at me to do that so in the end I did - and it was probably just as well.”
McDonnell added: “The punch knocked me off balance but it didn’t really hurt me and once my head cleared I was all right.”
Stung into action the Hatfield man proved he was more than all right by battling back to build up a healthy lead going into the later rounds.
There was never much between the boxers and it was only occasionally that McDonnell was allowed to dominate with his body punching proving particulalry effective.
Jamoye proved his mettle - as befits a former world youth champion - by battling back in the later rounds to make the final verdict close, especially after McDonnell had a point deducted for pushing his opponent in the 11th round.
The final round summed up the fight as both men went at it hammer and tong before McDonnell’s hand was raised at the end earning a 115-113 and 114-113 victory on two of the judges scorecards while the third official scored the bout even at 114-114.
While praising McDonnell it would be easy to overlook the contribution of the young Belgian who fought the fight of his life and will surely come back to fight at the highest level again.
Nobody has more guts, desire and determination than McDonnell.
Jamoye came close.
But not close enough.
n Twin brother Gavin was down to fight on the undercard but had to pull out when his opponent Chuck Jones arrived from Wales way over the featherweight limit.