Analysis: McDonnell back with a bang as Foster faces fury

Jamie McDonnell slams in a body shot against Bernard Inom. Picture: Trevor Price.
Jamie McDonnell slams in a body shot against Bernard Inom. Picture: Trevor Price.

It may not have been in the intense glare of the spotlight nor against the most testing of opponents but Jamie McDonnell is most certainly back.

A seventh round stoppage of former WBO flyweight title contender Bernard Inom has McDonnell back up and running after months of frustration, agony and politics.

An undefeated world champion, McDonnell really ought to have been in a more plumb slot than his 6.30pm fight time in Manchester.

But his positioning on the card delivered a message about how long the road back to world title glory is and also what he has to do to raise his profile to match that of Matchroom Boxing’s top fighters.

Though the Phones4u Arena was only half full when the Hatfield bantamweight made his way to the ring, he was nevertheless greeted with a strong ovation from those present.

He went on to perform well in a bout which could hardly be labelled a thriller.

In truth, Inom should probably have never been in the ring with a fighter of McDonnell’s calibre.

The Frenchman is clearly a natural flyweight and at 40-years-old, his world title chasing days are well behind him.

But this should not take away from McDonnell’s achievement, particularly as Inom has been stopped just once in his career previously and that came in his world title tilt against current WBO super flyweight king Oscar Andres Navares whose only defeat to date came against multi-weight dominating Nonito Donaire.

For much of the bout, it did not appear that McDonnell would get the stoppage.

A considerable height advantage over Inom allowed him to command the centre of the ring, using the jab well and staying out of trouble.

McDonnell afterwards admitted feeling rusty and it showed a little in his defences as the bout wore on.

Inom, though never looking capable of winning the fight, did send some stiff shots through McDonnell’s hands.

The 27-year-old has the canny habit of growing into fights as they wear on and this was true of his performance on Saturday night.

After the half way point, his workrate stepped up and he began to get closer to a man he had kept a distance from for the early rounds.

The body shots started to find their way through, and the end finally seemed near after a particularly strong hook to the base of the ribcage in the sixth.

From there, an early finish was suddenly likely with Inom flagging and McDonnell sensing a stoppage.

He piled the pressure on in the seventh round, landing numerous body shots which opened the Frenchman up.

And once the unanswered combinations to the head followed, referee Mark Lyson had little choice to step in, a decision that brought no protests from Inom or his camp.

Back with a bang and back in the hunt for world title glory, McDonnell will be back out again in a fortnight in London and hoping for a similar outcome.

McDonnell was not the only Doncaster boxing figure in action on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, that other involvement would ultimately overshadow all that had come before it on what was a brilliant card in Manchester.

For referee Howard Foster, taking charge of the main event between Carl Froch and George Groves should have been one of his career highlights.

Instead, the well-respected official has been lambasted for waving off the fight in the ninth round, a decision plenty immediately labelled too early.

There is no doubt Groves was in big trouble when Foster stepped in as Froch threw unanswered shot after unanswered shot in his remarkable comeback from a shocking first round knockdown.

The boos that rumbled through the arena thereafter showed the crowd’s overwhelming disagreement over the decision.

But just because Groves was not floored does not mean the fight should have gone on.

The desire for a conclusive finish should bring the need for a concussive one.

Boxing referees, more than officials in any other sport, are present not merely to enforce the rules but to protect the participants.

And Foster stepped in at that point to protect Groves, ensuring British boxing’s new superstar will definitely go on to have the bright future for which he is now tipped.

Only he knows what he saw in Groves’ eyes that led him to step in but he will not be given the opportunity to explain himself thanks to a British Boxing Board of Control ruling.

The furious response which continues to rumble has only been stoked by pundits who really ought to have more sympathy with Foster’s position.

The manner in which Foster refereed the bout has also come under criticism, with somewhat spiteful suggestions he interfered too much.

Though a brilliant spectacle between two incredible warriors, the Froch-Groves bout was one of the most nastily-fought contests in recent memory.

Numerous shots were thrown after the break was called, there were several to the back of both men’s heads and the use of the headbutt was all too common.

Foster in fact showed incredible restraint to not deduct points. Had he allowed them to ‘get on with it’ the fight would have descended into something much more ugly.

In the cold light of day, much more reflection on Saturday night’s events are needed.

British boxing may have a new star in Groves, but the reaction to the conclusion on Saturday night means it could very well lose one of its best officials.