Big Fight Verdict: Gavin McDonnell proves yet again that he belongs among the elite

Gavin McDonnell gets the better of Gamal Yafai. Photo: Lawrence Lustig
Gavin McDonnell gets the better of Gamal Yafai. Photo: Lawrence Lustig

Gavin McDonnell did not so much enter the last chance saloon as kick down the doors, turn over a few tables and set the bar on fire.

And in doing so he delivered a strong message – the same one his performances have shouted loud and proud so many times before.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig

Photo: Lawrence Lustig

You should never count out Gavin McDonnell.

With his career on the line, the Dunscroft fighter delivered the best performance of his seven years in the professional ranks.

He schooled one of Britain’s brightest young prospects in Gamal Yafai to remain ahead of him in the queue for a world title fight.

And he did so when plenty were doubting whether he had another run towards the top of the sport left in him.

In short, McDonnell proved himself, just as he has done time and again.

Just as he did when proving he was more than simply Jamie McDonnell’s twin brother.

When he proved himself more than just a decent British-level fighter.

When he proved himself the best in Europe.

And when he last year proved himself worthy of sharing the ring with a truly elite fighter with the WBC’s big green belt on the line.

On the basis of this latest performance, McDonnell will get the opportunity to share the spotlight with another elite fighter.

A year of frustration and of waiting saw the buzz from his performance in defeat to Rey Vargas wane.

He had it all to prove again when he stepped into Yafai, a fighter in the early stages of attempting to step out of his brother’s shadow.

The pressure was firmly on. Lose to an up-and-comer and it would be a very long road back indeed. Probably too long at the age of 31.

But in a time of adversity, McDonnell showed what a tremendous fighter he is.

And what he showed the most was what a sensational boxer he is too.

He stuck to a game plan of boxing at distance, using his height and reach advantage to keep Yafai at bay. But he also pushed onto the front foot to take the fight to the Birmingham fighter and dominate so much of the contest.

Working behind the jab, he was rarely troubled throughout 12 hard-fought rounds, those his face bore the scars of battle afterwards.

Showing phenomenal discipline, he refused to get involved in trading shots, either remaining at distance or only advancing when he knew he had Yafai on the back foot.

McDonnell’s shot selection was superb and he regularly found both head and body with hooks coming off the back of jabs.

Such was the overwhelming nature of his performance, he even threatened to stop Yafai.

In the tenth round he rattled him with a tremendous uppercut that sent him stumbling backwards.

By this point Yafai had nothing left in the tank. He was worn down and he could not even manage the final round surge he needed to try to force a stoppage of his own.

His opponent was showing yet again the supreme engine both he and his brother are blessed with. McDonnell looked like he could easily have gone a few more rounds.

There was no doubting the result at the final bell.

And the scorecards read 116-112, twice, and 117-113. They could easily have been a little wider.

What comes next for McDonnell will be interesting.

How soon another world title fight can be secured remains to be seen and there are some tough fights out there in the meantime which would keep him relevant.

But after last weekend in Sheffield, you would not count him out.

What he delivered last Saturday night was a special performance.

And not only did he bellow that you should never count out Gavin McDonnell – he also boomed that he belongs among the elite.