Four years ago he was a self-confessed village idiot but on Saturday night Gavin McDonnell could become the best in his class.
The Dunscroft fighter is set for the fight of his life in Hull when he contests the vacant British super bantamweight title in a potential show-stealer with Sheffield-trained Leigh Wood.
Victory would cap a remarkable journey from the pub to the domestic elite, spurred on by the success of world champion twin brother Jamie McDonnell and the sibling rivalry such achievement would spark.
It was his twin’s rapid rise to the British and European bantamweight titles in early 2010 that pushed McDonnell back into the boxing gym when his five fight junior amateur career had faded into memory.
“I was a typical lad – I lived for the weekend, going out and about with my mates, into town,” McDonnell said.
“I was one of the village idiots in the pub – ten pints on a Saturday afternoon, a bit of football. It started to do my head in. It wasn’t good to be in the pubs all weekend, every weekend.
“Just looking at my brother and the success he was having, I knew I had it in me but I just needed to get in the gym.
“It was down to my brother, he basically dragged me down to the gym.
“I did a bit of bag work and just took to it all again. I got my love for boxing back.
“It just went from there and I got the bit of belief I needed from my trainers.
“One thing led to another, they decided to take that step with me.
“I’m so glad I did it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
“It changed my life.”
Since his December 2010 debut, McDonnell has evolved from being known simply as Jamie McDonnell’s twin to being recognised as a contender in his own right.
His journey to such status was finalised with a complete performance against Barnsley’s Josh Wale at the Dome in September that sealed this weekend’s title bout and stretched his unbeaten record to 100 fights.
Saturday night will see the 27-year-old step out in front of the live Sky cameras for the first time, positioned as chief support on his first big show.
Moving out of the pub and into the spotlight in such a short space of time might have surprised some, but not McDonnell himself.
He said: “It’s not like all of a sudden I’m at British title level.
“It’s just through hard work that I’ve got where I am so I’m not surprised because the work I’ve put in is unbelievable.
“I’ve seen that first hand with my brother, if you put the work in you get your rewards.
“With each camp I’ve learned more and more. Each day is a new day and I’m still picking things up.
“I learn plenty from my brother. He’s ideal to have around.
“It’s always good when he’s in camp and we’re training together. We have that bit of competition and I’m always trying to outdo him.”
One way in which McDonnell may outdo his world title-chasing brother would be winning the British title outright – something which Jamie never achieved.
To claim the Lonsdale Belt permanently via three successful defences is his prime goal for 2014 but he knows he must negotiate a tricky test first in the also-unbeaten Wood – a member of the Ingle gym in Sheffield.
McDonnell said: “I’m expecting the very best Leigh Wood there is on Saturday night.
“It’s his biggest fight to date, just like it’s mine.
“The British title is the ultimate for a British fighter so I’m expecting 100 per cent from him like I’m going to give.
“It’s a step up in many ways with the title, the venue and the TV but it’s the same for him.
“I’m probably the best opponent he’s had by far so we’re both stepping up with this fight.
“It’s his dream and it’s my dream. That’s what makes it a great fight – we’re the same.
“I’m not bothered how the win comes, I’ll just do everything and anything to win it.
“It would open a lot of doors and put me on the scene.
“To win a British title outright is my main goal for the year.
“I’ve just got to win it first.”