A spirited sequel between the super bantamweights failed to produce a winner, as their regional title fight ended in a 12-round split decision draw. Scores were 115-114 Wale, 115-114 McDonnell and 114-114 even, in a fight that appeared to be that close, even if the crowd seemed let down that Wale was not announced as the victor.
McDonnell was the clear-cut winner when they met last September, and battle-tested enough to where his current unbeaten record is well-earned. Wale, on the other hand, has been forced to embrace the undesirable role of bridesmaid whenever he's stepped up in class, although the 26-year old has always given a solid account of himself.
That very mindset spilled over into Round 13 between the super bantamweights. McDonnell thought he could get away with boxing at his leisure, but Wale forced a furious pace early in the bout. McDonnell quickly adapted, but seemed to struggle as momentum swayed back and forth through the first half of the contest.
Wale stepped up the intensity in the middle rounds, coming dangerously close to stopping McDonnell on his feet at one point. Such an ending would have guaranteed Wale his biggest win to date. The sequence towards the end of round eight was as close as either fighter came to inflicting that level of punishment upon the other.
To his credit, McDonnell, 28, dug deep and boxed well in the later rounds - well enough to give the judges quite a bit to think about in a fight that was earlier destined for a clear-cut upset.
The late surge by the unbeaten boxer was enough to avoid a first loss, as Wale was forced to settle for a moral victory in a fight he appeared to shade.
McDonnell's record moves to 11-0-2 (4KO), his first non-winning performance since his fifth pro bout. Wale leaves the ring with his head held high, and his record now at 16-6-2 (9KO).
Khalid Yafai had no problem turning away disinterested challenger Yaqub Kareem, scoring a 3rd round knockout in their televised opener.
Yafai (11-0, 8KO) carried the fight for as long as it lasted, as Kareem's lone intention was to hear the bell for each round. The strategy lasted all of two rounds, though tasting plenty of leather when he wasn't fully in retreat.
The devastating ending came early in the third, when Yafai scored with consecutive body shots to force the bout's lone knockdown. Kareem (13-4-1, 8KO) went down, showing no interest in rising to his feet as he was counted out at 0:30 of round three.
Not to be outdone by big brother, Gamal Yafai power-punched his way to a succesful pro debut. The 22-year old forced Ricky Leach into submission in less than two minutes. Yafai (1-0, 1KO) threw with mean intentions from the opening bell, not letting up until the referee believed Leach (0-1-1, 0KO) could no longer defend himself.
The official time was 1:46 of round one.
Promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed a quick turnaround for the younger Yafai, who will appear on the undercard of the May 31 rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves.
STILL TO COME:
Josh Warrington (17-0, 2KO) vs. Martin Lindsay (21-2, 8KO) - 12 rounds, featherweight
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox