Former two-time world bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell has announced his retirement from boxing.
The 35-year-old from Doncaster has not fought since winning a six-round fight against Cristian Narvaez in Milan just under two years ago. The victory, his 30th and final one of a 34-fight career (30-3-1, 13 KOs), came 11 months after surrendering his WBA title to the ferocious Naoya Inoue in Japan. The weight-drained McDonnell was stopped in just the first round.
McDonnell’s fairytale career began on September 16, 2005 at the Doncaster Dome (where he fought 13 times) against Neil Read in a six-round affair. Seven contests in nine months would fly by and then one month before his 21st birthday McDonnell would pick up the first of many championships beating Wayne Bloy (W TKO 3) for the English bantamweight title.
An unsuccessful tilt against Chris Edwards for the English super flyweight belt (L SD 12) would see McDonnell begin a run of 21 victories which started against Lee Haskins over eight rounds three months later. British, Commonwealth and European bantamweight honours would be collected with wins along the way against Ian Napa, Stephane Jamoye and Stuart Hall before a memorable night at Keepmoat Stadium, the home of Doncaster Rovers.
That spring evening on May 11, 2013 saw McDonnell upset the odds defeating rising Mexican star Julio Ceja with a majority decision victory to dethrone the IBF champion. McDonnell’s fast hands troubled the 20-year-old and despite Ceja’s late rally it would be proof that dreams come true as the Brit was announced the winner.
“There were a few anxious moments when he caught me, but I enjoyed that last round more than I’ve ever enjoyed a round. It means everything and this belt is for everyone in Doncaster,” said the jubilant new champion afterwards.
Five months after his win the IBF moved to strip McDonnell of his title. The governing body said that McDonnell’s failure to set up a fight with then mandatory challenger Vusi Malinga, by the November deadline, was the reason behind their decision.
McDonnell responded with a public statement where it was clear promotional and management difficulties had unsettled the champion and despite an appeal lodged by new promoter Eddie Hearn the IBF upheld their ruling.
The heartbreak of losing his world title was put to bed and McDonnell, who had parted ways with Dennis Hobson, began the quest of becoming a two-time world champion under Hearn. A spot on the Carl Froch-George Groves I undercard and a second fight on Sky Sports helped prepare him for a shot at the vacant WBA title against Thailand’s Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat. Wembley Stadium was the setting for the fight on the Froch-Groves sequel and a perfect left hook gave McDonnell glory second time round. Na Rachawat was dropped in round 10 and that was all she wrote.
“It means everything to me to win this title. My career is back on track now,” said McDonnell.
McDonnell continued to surprise many and defended his title six times including back-to-back wins against Tomoki Kameda. The first result was a shock to many and with that McDonnell had hoped to move to super bantamweight to face the likes of Scott Quigg, but the champion and his trainer Dave Coldwell went back to America and gave the previously unbeaten Komeda another loss.
“To be fair I thought this was easier than the first fight,” said McDonnell.
It was indeed a comfortable victory for the Yorkshireman and defences against Fernando Vargas Parra and Liborio Solis placed him amongst not only one of the best in Britain but one of the best bantamweights in the world.
However, McDonnell and his 5’10” frame were finding it increasingly difficult to make the 8st 6lbs limit and the effort against Inoue proved that his days at the weight were over.
Not long after the loss to the Japanese phenom McDonnell’s world would be turned upside down as his marriage came to an end. McDonnell spoke to Boxing Social’s John Angus MacDonald in July last year detailing what he went through. The following is an excerpt from that story:
“If shit didn’t happen in my life, I could probably have been a champion at super-bantamweight by now. I might look back in a few years when I’ve retired and think, ‘What a dickhead,’ but when you go through shit, you’ve got to deal with it. I’ve finally come to terms with it.”
Despite hopes he would have ‘One last roll of the dice’, in his words, nothing has come of it. The career of Jamie McDonnell is over but what a career it has been. One to be remembered and not forgotten by fans and peers. It began in Doncaster, stopped off at Wembley Stadium, Texas, Monte Carlo, Japan and finished in Milan.
“Well today’s the day that I am officially retiring from the sport of boxing,” McDonnell said on Tuesday night.
“I have had a good think over the last few months and I have spoken to a few close people around me. At the age of 35 I feel that it’s too late to make a comeback. I have achieved more than I ever thought I would. English champion, British champion, Commonwealth champion, European champion, IBF world champion and WBA world champion.
“I fought the best to be the best! I fell short against one of the best fighters on the planet and I think if I come back now at this age it would put my life’s hard work to shame.
“I can truly say I have had a blast and lived the life!”
His former trainer Dave Coldwell, who he shared so much success with, said “One of THE most underrated British fighters. I’m very proud to have played a little part of Jamie McDonnell’s amazing career. A true road warrior, a great character and a fantastic British world champion.”