Doncaster boxer Gavin McDonnell steps up on to world stage

Gavin McDonnell, left, who added to the family haul of titles, with brother Jamie at the Malinga fight in Hull
Gavin McDonnell, left, who added to the family haul of titles, with brother Jamie at the Malinga fight in Hull
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Boxing is about opportunities and Gavin McDonnell grasped his with both gloves.

The Doncaster fighter is the new WBO International super bantamweight champion after forcing the opportunity to step up in class.

And he can be content that the gamble of relinquishing his British title to chase an opponent from the world stage paid off in full.

McDonnell stuck to a game plan to outpoint three-time world title contender Vusi Malinga over 12 hard fought rounds.

A new title was added to the McDonnell family haul as Gavin earned a world rating, taking another step in following in twin brother Jamie’s footsteps.

It was not as perfect a performance as some of the early rounds suggested it might have been.

And it was clear that Malinga’s force is on the wane after just one fight in the last 19 months.

But McDonnell showed enough to suggest is capable of fighting consistently beyond the domestic level.

There was even the hint of a statement stoppage when Malinga was heavily stunned and downed in the eighth.

After an even, tentative opening round, McDonnell found his stride over the next two.

He consistently made the South African miss with excellent movement and showed a tight guard, particularly against body shots.

McDonnell picked Malinga off with his jab, hitting and moving without producing anything stinging.

Perhaps lulled in by his good work in the previous two rounds, McDonnell slipped in the fourth, losing his flow and also his defensive rigidity as Malinga began to find gaps.

Blood dripped from McDonnell’s nose early in the fifth round but he gradually settled back into the groove as the round wore on.

The 28-year-old started to reestablish control in the sixth, hitting and moving once more, though his defences remained a little open.

He was tagged with a couple of meaningful shots in the seventh but was largely on top, landing the more clean shots.

The true early indication of victory came in the eighth. A huge right hook connected under Malinga’s jaw.

The South African stepped away and turned his back before crumpling to the floor moments later.

He made the count and McDonnell pounced, looking for the finish. In the couple of minutes which followed he expended plenty of energy that would affect his performance in a few of the rounds which followed.

Malinga showed his toughness to hold on and stay the course of the next four rounds.

Some of McDonnell’s best work came in the tenth, keeping Malinga at bay and scoring with some slick combinations.

McDonnell’s efforts waned as fatigue set in over the final two rounds but Malinga was already beaten and lacked energy himself to adequately chase a dramatic late stoppage.

The judges were unanimous in their verdict with two giving McDonnell the fight by 116-111 while the third thought it was a round closer.

A likely shot at the European title awaits early next year, should Sheffield’s Kid Galahad relinquish the strap as expected.

And when it comes to proving critics wrong, McDonnell is likely to have fewer doubters going into his next bout.