Jamie McDonnell believes he “made a statement” by winning the vacant IBF bantamweight title with a contentious majority decision over the previously unbeaten Julio Ceja at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.
Former British, Commonwealth and European champion McDonnell was a firm underdog heading into the fight in his hometown of Doncaster against his Mexican opponent, who came into the contest with an unblemished 24-0 record, with 22 knockouts.
However, while Ceja landed some telling blows throughout - particularly in the fourth and 11th rounds - McDonnell’s slick style and combination punches were enough to win over the judges, who scored the bout 114-114, 115-113 and a frankly ludicrous 118-110.
Ceja, who is trained by the world renowned Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, could feel perhaps feel hard done by in his first fight abroad on a chilly night in south Yorkshire, but McDonnell felt he was the clear winner.
“All of those power shots when I got really in close to him, they might have looked like they hurt, but there was nothing in them and I slipped and rolled a lot so that felt good,” he said.
“I thought I’d won it by three or four rounds, I felt confident at the end, but when they said majority I thought “ohh”.
“Look at the kid’s record, I made a statement there. They looked at his record and thought he was going to dust me away and I just boxed his head off and it felt good.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, I’m world champ. It’ll probably sink in on holiday when I’ve got a few cold beers.”
McDonnell (21-2-1) admitted he was briefly stunned in the 11th round, but he rallied in a blockbuster final three minutes, with the partisan crowd on their feet willing the 27-year-old to victory.
“He caught me in the 11th and he knew he’d hurt me and kept on coming. I felt it, I felt his power and I was thinking ‘just get away’,” he said.
“Sometimes you think they haven’t got that power to hurt you in the last round, but this kid, I thought ‘if I let him catch me with that one shot he could finish it’.
“So before I came out I said to myself ‘please don’t get knocked out or caught with a big shot’.
“He was looking for that so in the last 30 seconds of the round I just started hitting him with combos.”
The Yorkshireman, who has already set his sights on a unification fight, was quick to hail his promoter Dennis Hobson for arranging last night’s bout in his hometown.
“I’d like to fight someone with another belt and unify it, but I’ll leave this to Dennis, it’s his job and he’ll sort it,” added McDonnell.
“(It was a) cracking job getting the fight here, that was the main thing. That kid in his hometown in Mexico would have been twice as hard.”
Hobson, who has worked with former world champions Ricky Hatton and Clinton Woods among others in the past, believes Ceja’s camp underestimated McDonnell before going on to state last night’s success was just the beginning for his charge.
“They were talking about that kid as though he was going to be the next superstar,” said Hobson.
“That trainer in their corner is one of the most renowned trainers in the world and he didn’t want to be involved with also-rans. They thought it was nailed on and he was going to arrive and have 10-15 years at the top but they didn’t count on Jamie McDonnell.
“I think they thought ‘Jamie is a good European fighter but he can’t go up at world level’. But they didn’t count on Jamie McDonnell and the most exciting thing about Jamie is he’s still improving and that’s scary.
“To be honest, I don’t think the people of Doncaster realise what we’ve got here. Sheffield’s got Jessica Ennis, we’ve got Jamie McDonnell. That’s how special he is.”