Gavin McDonnell: Beating Daniel Roman would only be the start

Gavin McDonnell
Gavin McDonnell

Gavin McDonnell does not see winning a world title as the end of his journey – for him it is just the start.

On Saturday night, McDonnell will walk to the ring at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago looking to rip the WBA super bantamweight title against current holder Daniel Roman.

Watched on by twin brother Jamie McDonnell, Gavin McDonnell gets his hands wrapped

Watched on by twin brother Jamie McDonnell, Gavin McDonnell gets his hands wrapped

The fight comes 18 months after his first attempt at claiming a world crown when gallantly beaten by the superb Rey Vargas in Hull.

It was an opportunity few in boxing would have dared to predict McDonnell would ever earn. And even fewer would have backed him to get a second chance.

But since the very start of his unlikely professional career, the Dunscroft fighter has confounded sceptics, emphatically answered critics and pressed on regardless.

So after impressing in defeat to Vargas, he rebuilt and reset – riding through a few months of frustrating stagnation before turning in a career-best performance to swat away the challenge of up-and-comer Gamal Yafai.

Gavin McDonnell was superb in his last fight against Stuart Hall

Gavin McDonnell was superb in his last fight against Stuart Hall

And easily handling former world champion Stuart Hall set up the opportunity he has once again to reach the pinnacle of his division.

So when he says beating Roman on Saturday would only be the start, it is difficult to not believe him.

“Some people have said this is my last chance but I’m only just getting going in the boxing game really,” he told the Free Press.

“I plan on winning this and having a big couple of years. I plan on winning it and really putting my name on the world scene.

“Getting myself out there and in massive, massive fights.

“That is how I’m thinking. I’m not thinking, if I get beat then what will be next.

“I’m planning on smashing my way through this division.

“I want to keep the McDonnell name at the top of the sport.

“Hopefully our kid can get back up there himself and we can be up there together.”

‘Our kid’ is twin brother Jamie McDonnell, who is currently plotting his next steps after his four year reign as WBA bantamweight champion came to an end earlier this year.

Saturday night will be Gavin’s first fight outside England. But he has travelled the world with his brother – whose last fight was in Japan – and feels the experience he has picked up will mean there will be no difficulties in fighting in the United States.

“If we hadn't done those camps with our kid and been abroad with our kid it would all be new to me,” he said.

“I might not have fought abroad but I've experienced it.

“I know what it;s all about, It's all be good for me to prepare for this.

“I have experienced what it's like what to expect. I know I can put all that into practice myself.”

When McDonnell was beaten by Vargas in February 2017, it was clear he had shared the ring with a genuine world class operator that was a level above.

But the 32-year-old is confident this time there will be no gap in class between him and Roman, chiefly due to the improvement in himself over the last 18 months.

“There’s a million and one things that are different,” he said.

“One of the main things is belief. Belief, confidence.

“It’s how much I want it. And I’ve learned so much from being around our kid in these big occasions.

“I’ve learned so much about boxing and life in general.

“And the hunger is there. Nobody wants it more than me.

“When it comes to fight night, I know I’ll find a way, one way or another.

“There’s loads of little things that are better this time around.

“I’ve noticed myself all through the camp and all being well on fight night it will all come good and we’ll see a new world champion.

“This time I genuinely believe I’m there and that I’m good enough.

“Last time I had a few doubts but this time I know I’m good enough because of the fights I’ve come through.

“A confident fighter is a dangerous fighter and I'll full of confidence going into this one.”

His latest foe is a 28-year-old Los Angeles native, preparing to make his third defence of the WBA title he won a year ago.

Roman has 25 victories from 28 fights on his record and was one of the initial signings of promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing expansion into the United States.

McDonnell is expecting a tough test – and says Roman better be expecting the same.

He said: “I've looked and seen what I need to see.

“He's champion, he's good.

“They don't give those belts away and he's had a couple of good defences.

“But how I'm feeling and how I'm looking, I just know I'm going to beat him.

“He’s fought good fighters but I don't think he's fought anyone as good as me.

“I know I'm going to turn up on the night and find a way, one way or another.”

Even beyond Saturday night, it has been a big year for McDonnell.

Not only has he grown his reputation as a fighter with superb victories over Gamal Yafai and Stuart Hall, he has become a father for the second time.

Wife Sophie gave birth to the couple's second son Lennox in August – right in the middle of McDonnell's training camp for his clash with Roman.

As he stepped up his preparations, he was forced to spend time away from his heavily-pregnant partner, including embarking on training camps in Dubai and Portugal.

He admits to finding the process difficult but insists he is even more determined to make sure the sacrifice was worthwhile with victory on Saturday night.

“I went to Dubai and then we had a last minute trip to Portugal, around the time my baby was due," he said.

“It wasn't ideal but again it;s one of those sacrifices that you have to make.

“It will make it all worthwhile when I win the fight.

“That's one of the reasons I'm going to get the job done.

“I had a cracking time in both, put some real hard work and it's put me in a good position.

“I'm glad we did now.

“At times I was a bit down because I had to leave my wife, my son and my unborn son.

“It's given me a little bit more motivation to pull it out of the bag.”