The Dunscroft fighter has confirmed his retirement from the sport after more than 11 years as a professional.
His career will be celebrated during a boxing show in his honour on March 25 at the Dome, promoted by his manager Stefy Bull.
McDonnell’s rise through the ranks was incredible, claiming the European title and twice fighting for world championships despite possessing no amateur experience of which to speak prior to pulling on the gloves.
And he says he achieved far beyond his own expectations in the ring.
“I’ve done everything I want in boxing,” he told the Free Press. “I’ve been to the moon and back.
“I’ve overachieved if anything. When I started, I’d have been happy with an English title. But when you get something, you want more and more.
“I’ve had two cracks at world titles and, yeah, I lost them both but I don’t have any regrets. Both camps were top notch, I cut no corners, and I was in there with two top fighters who have proven themselves ever since.
“I can’t fault anything I’ve done, especially when I didn’t know my left from my right at the start.”
Expectations for his career were not particularly high after his start in the sport came with a drunken declaration of ‘if he can do it, so can I’ during celebrations for twin brother Jamie’s European title triumph in March 2010.
But he superbly moved out of his brother’s shadow during his career, winning a European title of his own five years in before fighting Rey Vargas and Daniel Roman for world titles.
McDonnell’s last fight came last April when he contested the European featherweight title with Andoni Gago in Barcelona. He suffered a severe cut due to a clash of heads which led to the fight being waved off as a technical draw.
With the Covid-19 pandemic making opportunities to return to the ring difficult, McDonnell took it as a sign it was time to retire.
“If I was to carry on now after a two-year pandemic, coming up to 36 and there’s young whipper-snappers coming up, it’s only going to get harder for me,” he said.
“I used to live in the gym but I’ve just been in and out through the pandemic.
“I just think it’s time.
“I’ve never fought for money and I wouldn’t do it now.
“My plan was to win that European title and retire. Go out as champion.
“But even that was a bit of a wake up call. I’d not been in the ring for a while and when I first got hit, I felt it like I hadn’t before. S**t got real and fast.
“I think it was a wake up call to say Gav, get out now.
“The clash of heads and the cut - I think it was a sign.
“I’ve not gone out on a loss. I’m happy.
“If I’d have taken one for the money, just for that, I’d have probably regretted it.
“You don’t see the money because you chuck it on a car or something like that.
“I’ve had a good run.
McDonnell insists there is no longing to continue competing in the sport but he will miss certain aspects of boxing life.
He said: “The day to day is what I’ll miss. The discipline of it all.
“I still can’t come to terms with having a sugar in my tea. I’ve gone from not having any sauce to having sriracha on everything.
“I’ll not miss the fighting. I’ll miss the routine.
“When it’s all said and done and you’ve still got your health, you can’t want more.”