HATFIELD hero Jamie McDonnell will be fighting for recognition - as well as staying on course for a crack at a world title - when he defends his European bantamweight crown at the Dome this Saturday.
Amazingly the modest former Dunscroft man believes he still has to prove himself despite winning British, Commonwealth and European titles in the space of an incredible two months last year.
McDonnell feels he did not get the acclaim he deserved when he beat British and Commonwealth champion Ian Napa in what some believed was a controversial points verdict last January.
And they belittled his opponent when he stopped Italian champion Rodrigo Bracco in his first defence of the European title at the Dome last July.
But no-one will be dismissive if he manages to overcome Saturday’s challenger Stephane Jamoye who has won 19 of his 20 fights and is a former WBC youth world champion.
McDonnell is a big favourite with the bookies but, make no mistake, this is his toughest fight yet.
His opponent is young and hungry and has already been tipped by some as the man who could become Belgium’s first world champion.
Jamoye is 21 - three years younger than McDonnell - but has more experience as an amateur, and a professional.
He is not used to defeat having won 56 of his 60 contests as an amateur - and his only loss as a professional came in controversial style against unbeaten Japanese sensation Tomoki Kameda for the world youth crown in Mexico last August.
The fight was originally declared a draw but then changed to a split decision win for Kameda who looked bruised and battered at the finish.
Jamoye first laced on gloves at 14, became Belgian champion at 16 and won the world youth title at the age of 19 when he beat a tough Thai boxer who had previously won all his 23 fights with 18 knockout victories!
McDonnell said: “This is where I prove myself.
“I know this kid is the best I’ve fought and I can’t afford to slip up.
“But I’m the fittest I’ve ever been and, when I beat him, people will know I’m not just a flash in the pan.”
Promoter Frank Maloney said: “Jamie’s progress has been startling but his European title triumph didn’t get the recognition it deserved.
“Jamoye is another step up in class but, if he comes through this and another couple of defences, he’ll be ready for the best in the world.”
There are no fewer than ten unbeaten fighters on the undercard including Jamie’s twin brother Gavin who faces tough Welsh featherweight Chuck Jones.
Tickets for the show, priced £60 and £30, are available from www.frankmaloney.com and 0871 226 1508.