Fresh start has Jamie McDonnell targeting return to top

Jamie McDonnell on a recent visit to a boxing gym in Sheffield
Jamie McDonnell on a recent visit to a boxing gym in Sheffield

Jamie McDonnell is back in the gym and targeting the top once again.

For the first time since 2014, the Hatfield fighter is beginning a year without a world title to his name.

But he is determined to make sure that is not the case next January - or at least be in a strong position to push for world honours by that point.

McDonnell lost his WBA bantamweight crown to knockout king Nayoa Inoue in Japan last May - a fight for which he was severely weight drained and lucky to emerge from largely unscathed.

The 32-year-old has been out of the ring since as he dealt with issues in his personal life.

But he returned to Dave Coldwell's gym this week along with twin brother Gavin McDonnell as the pair bid to push for world title opportunities as soon as possible.

Like his brother, McDonnell is examining possibilities at higher weights but says the opportunities available will determine in what class he campaigns at.

And he admits he would love the chance to exact some family revenge on either of the two men who denied Gavin world title glory at super bantamweight - WBC king Rey Vargas or WBA champion Daniel Roman.

"If Eddie Hearn [promoter] can get me a world title fight at super bantamweight, either against that Vargas or Roman that beat my brother, I'll fight one of them," he told the Free Press.

"If he can't sort a meaningful fight at super bantam, either a final eliminator or a world title fight, then I'll campaign at featherweight.

"I'll have a couple of tune up fights and get myself in the mix. And then in the summer we can look at some big names.

"I think that fighting for a world title will be a longer route at featherweight than super bantam because there are more good fighters in the queue.

"But if I could get 12 weeks notice I'll be able to do it at super bantamweight and be ready."

It was clear for all to see in his last fight that remaining at bantamweight was no longer an option for McDonnell and that he probably should have moved up in weight before that.

Being so weight drained denied him the opportunity to deliver a real test to Inoue - who is tipped to win the current World Boxing Super Series at bantamweight.

And he admits he found his first defeat in a decade difficult to take.

"That last fight got me down," he said.

"It was the weight that did me. I still believe that I'd beat him today but the weight killed me.

"I'd not been beaten for years and it knocks you when it comes.

"Maybe the break I've had came at the right time.

"I've got to think about myself. I've got to come again and knuckle down."

McDonnell believes the changes in his home life have given him fresh focus and a renewed desire for success this year.

He hopes to be back in the ring by the end of March and is awaiting potential dates from promoter Eddie Hearn.

Whenever his return comes, he is pledging that it will mark a new chapter in his career.

"I'll have a fresh start," he said.

"I'm on my own now and I've got to look after me and my daughter. I've got to put her first and I'm going to do it for me and her.

"I'm going to knuckle down and have a big year this year.

"I'm going to put everything into it, live the life, do everything right after fights.

"I'd definitely like to get a couple of years out of it, get to 35 if I can.

"If I can have a big year, we'll see what happens and what opportunities come."