The long road back for Gavin McDonnell
'I'm back. G-Mac is back.'
Gavin McDonnell is certainly back where he wants – and feels he should – be in the sport of boxing.
On Saturday in Sheffield, he will compete in the night’s chief support bout against Birmingham’s highly-fancied and unbeaten Gamal Yafai with the WBC International super bantamweight title on the line.
The winner is tipped to progress onto a world title opportunity.
And after falling short in his first attempt a year ago, McDonnell is driven to grasp a second chance at the ultimate prize in the sport.
“I’m just excited to be back in the big fights,” he told the Free Press. “A big domestic dust-up. And it just sets up a massive 2018 for me.”
The previous year started off as massive for the Dunscroft fighter. He got his world title opportunity against the superbly talented Rey Vargas last February.
But the rest of the year was a struggle as he played the waiting game for a route back to the top table.
He competed in two low-key six round contests, just to keep himself busy.
But he never expected it would be 13 months between big bouts.
“Boxing, the business side of it and how it works, it’s no mercy,” McDonnell said.
“I had a defeat but I thought with a bit of momentum I’d be back in big fights.
“I went straight from top to bottom.
“I did two six rounders with ten week camps, costing me a fortune.
“But it’s all for this opportunity.
“You’ve got to go through the bad to appreciate the good.
“This will be my year. I’ve got to start with a bang.
“It’s a great opponent in Gamal but it’s one I know I’ll come through.
“I think this will be my defining year.
“I hope I’ll look back at last year, my title loss especially, and say it was a blessing in disguise.
“It was a tough year. It’s not easy in those little fights. There’s no motivation.
“But it’s all for this moment and I won’t let it slip.
“I can’t let it slip.”
With the experience to tell him just how long and tough the road back is, McDonnell feels he has all the motivation he needs for victory on Saturday night.
It will not be easy. Yafai – brother of super flyweight world champion Kal – is skilful and slippery and has won all 14 of his fights, stopping seven early including his last three.
But he lacks the experience of quality opponents which McDonnell amassed en route to his world title shot.
And it is questionable whether he will have the same sort of burning drive McDonnell now has.
“I never took for granted where I was or what I had,” McDonnell said. “It just shows what a loss can do.
“This time around I’m going to enjoy it that little bit more.
“It can be taken away just like that.
“At this level, I can’t bear to think of a loss.
“I’m going to put in the performance of my life and set up the big year.
“This will be a good win and do me the world of good.”