Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell outpointed Darlington’s Stuey Hall at the Doncaster Dome last night after twelve rounds of scintillating action, to unify the European, Commonwealth and British bantamweight titles. European and Commonwealth champion McDonnell (8st 6lb) started the fight as slight favourite, but it was British champion Hall (also 8st 6lb) who edged a close first round.
Hall, cheered on by a boisterous army of fans, got through with a couple of left jabs and a couple of clean right hands. After a close second, both fighters opened up and exchanged for the first time in the third, with Hall coming out on top. McDonnell was slowly getting into the fight, and he won a fairly one-sided fourth round as he upped his work-rate, landed regularly and kept Hall at bay by moving around the ring on the back foot. Hall came back strong to dominate the fifth, as McDonnell spent most of the session defending. In this round, Hall landed cleanly with a massive right hand which McDonnell did well to take.
McDonnell‘s confidence visibly grew in the sixth as Hall appeared to take his foot off the gas as the action-packed contest evolved. McDonnell’s work was sharp and varied and Hall was becoming easier to hit. McDonnell pinched a close seventh with an impressive ‘hit and retreat’ style. The eighth was a cracking round with both fighters tasting leather, but McDonnell’s work was slightly sharper and more accurate. McDonnell’s impressive body punches were taking their toll on Hall, but the punch of the round was a classy right uppercut before the bell from McDonnell.
Hall edged the ninth round, thanks mainly to a couple of right uppercuts and a massive straight right, as McDonnell appeared to take a breather.
The tenth and eleventh saw both fighters land with clean shots but the better variety and more eye-catching work came from McDonnell. Hall, now cut above the left eye, spent the early part of the twelfth and final round chasing McDonnell without really catching him cleaning. McDonnell showed his experience by coming on strong towards the end of the round, and probably just about showed enough class to nick it.
The fight went to the scorecards and McDonnell was given the verdict (115-113, 116-114, 116-113), and McDonnell (now 18-2-1) had just about done enough to wrestle the British title from Hall (now 11-1-1), to add to his ever-growing collection of straps. It was a terrific fight, a great advert for British boxing, and it was a perfect start to the new boxing season. Their styles gelled perfectly, and it was an easy night’s work for referee Ian-John Lewis, who never had to intervene.
McDonnell’s experience over the twelve round championship distance probably gave him the edge. His work was sharper, more accurate and easier on the eye, and he always came on strong towards the end of the rounds. McDonnell is likely to vacate his Commonwealth and British belts as he will now look to defend his European title before looking to secure a world title shot for the beginning of 2012. Hall will definitely bounce back from his first defeat. He will look to challenge for his old British title again before the end of the year. It was only his thirteenth professional outing, and he is still learning the game.
As the fight went on, Hall struggled to cope with McDonnell’s movement, pressure and variety, and he didn’t throw enough combinations of his own to keep McDonnell at bay. He didn’t land enough of his trademark right uppercuts, and he didn’t attack the body enough. It was the fifth time that McDonnell had gone the twelve round championship distance but the first time that Hall had had to go ‘all twelve’. McDonnell paced the fight perfectly, and came on stronger towards the end of each round.
McDonnell stepped up a level in this fight, and he may still have more levels to go through as he looks to challenge for world honours. His variety of work was impressive and so was his stamina, and he also proved that he can take a shot.