Bantamweight contender Jamie McDonnell served further notice of his potential by securing a hard-earned unanimous points victory over previously undefeated Stuart Hall in Doncaster, England, on Saturday.
Despite a shaky start, when the busy, bustling style of his 31-year-old rival caused him serious problems, McDonnell, the European and Commonwealth champion, eventually proved too strong as he added Hall's British title to his collection.
It was a cracking, relentless contest at the Doncaster Dome, Yorkshire, and home favourite McDonnell managed to turn proceedings around at the half-way stage with superior ring skills and more-telling punching accuracy.
At one point it appeared Hall might even be stopped. But underlining a never-say-die attitude, the late-starter from Darlington, County Durham – he only turned pro three-and-a-half years ago – courageously fought back to go 12 rounds for the first time.
The judges scored the thriller 115-113, 116-114, 116-113 in favor of McDonnell (18-2-1, 7 knockouts).
“I’m over the moon. That was 12 hard rounds. But in the later stages I felt comfortable,” he said. “Stuart’s strong and I had to dig in. That’s the toughest strength I’ve felt coming forward at me.”
Promoter Frank Maloney is convinced McDonnell, already ranked No 8 by the WBC, is now closing in on a crack at a world title.
“The boy is one fight from a world title shot,” said Maloney. “He’s got a mandatory European defense and once we get that out the way, probably in December, he will be ready. “
Despite suffering a first loss, Hall (11-1-1, 7 KOs) remained upbeat about the future, which includes getting married later this week in Mauritius.
“Experience won it. I was a bit naïve,” Hall said. “But I’m happy with my performance because it’s all about leaning. The better man won on the night. I’m a bit sad but I’ll be back. It’s only my 13th fight.”