By Nick Halling
One way or another, October has the potential to be a busy month for Doncaster’s boxing twins, Jamie and Gavin McDonnell. The two are both looking likely to be in action – all that’s missing at the moment are dates, times and venues. Oh, and what titles will be at stake.
Jamie, the WBA regular bantamweight boss, is potentially close to securing a major fight. After beating Tabtimdaeng Na Ratchawat on the Froch-Groves II undercard at Wembley in May, the former IBF title holder immediately began to vocalise his desire for a unification contest before possibly dipping his toe into the lucrative super-bantam pool.
There’s another reigning bantamweight boss who’s been making similar noises. Tomoki Kameda made a huge impression on the recent Alvarez-Lara undercard, successfully defending his WBO belt with a brutal left hook to the body which wrecked challenger Pungluang Sor Singyu. He, too, is in the market for a unification contest, something he spoke of openly ahead of that recent outing.
Kameda’s stock rose hugely after his destruction of the Thai opponent, and it was just what the unbeaten Japanese fighter needed to do on his American debut. He was sufficiently impressive to be added almost immediately to the burgeoning Al Haymon stable.
If McDonnell is serious about his desire for a unification fight – and those close to him say he is - then Kameda looks the likeliest and most logical option. WBA super boss Anselmo Moreno is lined up for a defence in Texas in September, so he looks out of the picture.
And the IBF’s vacant belt is to be contested by former holder (and McDonnell victim) Stuey Hall, and California’s patient Randy Caballero sometime later this year in a done deal (a deal done, ironically, by McDonnell’s one-time manager, Dennis Hobson). That would leave Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champion, as the only other alternative.
Logistically, however, discussions with Haymon and promoters Golden Boy will be much easier than trying to strike a deal with Yamanaka. It would also rule out a trip to Japan.
According to reports, Kameda and his world-class brothers, Koki and Daiki, are currently unable to box in their home country – which explains why Tomoki turned up in the United States last month, and looks set for an extended stay.
But Haymon doesn’t factor foreign travel into the equation for his fighters, so a deal-breaker here would almost certainly mean that McDonnell will have to go to America. And that won’t be a deal-breaker at all. The recently-married Yorkshireman is the type who happily hits the road when opportunity knocks.
Nothing is on the table yet, and there’s no shortage of ifs and buts surrounding this one. However, a gambling man who placed a small wager on Jamie McDonnell facing Tomoki Kameda in a unification match in Vegas or Los Angeles later this year might see a tidy return on his investment. And McDonnell would not only see a career-best purse, he’d have a legitimate chance to add to his impressive collection of belts.
Twin brother Gavin could also potentially be in the market for another title. However, the reigning domestic super-bantam champ is in a holding pattern before knowing what his next move will be.
One fight definitely on the cards is a defence of his domestic belt against Jazza Dickens, a fight which could take place as soon as early October. The complication here, however, is that reigning European title holder Kid Galahad is thought to be considering relinquishing his belt.
Galahad also holds the Commonwealth strap, and will defend it against Canada’s Tyson Cave on 20 September in his home city, Sheffield. Galahad is a rising star with serious, high-scale ambitions – and talent to back it up. But he currently lacks a top 15 ranking with any of the sanctioning bodies. Cave is listed at No 6 with the WBA, so a win would put the Sheffield man firmly in the world title picture, and possibly hot on the heels of his highly-rated compatriots, Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton.
With Galahad pursuing a world title – and also having the self-belief to win one – there’s a school of thought which suggests that the European belt might be a hindrance rather than a help. If he beats Cave next month, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Galahad give up the Euro belt.
And if that scenario plays out, McDonnell, highly ranked by the EBU, would be in the frame to go after the vacant title. Although such a decision would almost certainly mean relinquishing his Lonsdale Belt.
There’s quite a bit of smoke still to clear here – but for both McDonnell brothers, the next few weeks have the potential to be very interesting indeed.
Another Yorkshire fighter, Hull lightweight Tommy Coyle, is hoping to hit the jackpot with an open-air match with his local rival Luke Campbell next summer. Campbell, the Olympic gold medallist, turned professional at an outdoor show in the city last year, but there’s a belief that a Coyle-Campbell collision could sell out the K C Stadium, home of Premier League soccer team Hull City.
That’s a big ask, but no means an impossibility. Campbell is hugely popular in the city: his post-Olympic homecoming virtually halted business in the town for the afternoon. His pro debut last July, a humble six-rounder, drew an impressive 7,000 crowd to rugby league venue Craven Park.
Even then, Campbell was being touted as a future world professional champion. Now back in action after a five-month absence to deal with illness in the family, Campbell can expect to make meaningful progress over the next few months.
Coyle isn’t that big in terms of name-recognition, but his crowd-pleasing style has earned him a following of his own. There’s every chance that a meeting of two popular local favourites could draw an audience as big as 30,000.
Coyle is a work in progress, but if heart and commitment define a fighter, he has the chance to go a long way. He’s going to be busy, though, before dreams of a local derby with Campbell start to crystallise.
He’s due out for a tuneup at the end of August in Dublin, and then will be on a bill in October in Hull. There had been whispers that one-time interim WBO lightweight champ Michael Katsidis was being lined up as the opponent, but intriguing as that fight might have been, the trail seems to have gone cold.
The deal with Campbell is conditional on Coyle continuing to win. If he can hold up his end of the bargain, Coyle should on course for a career-defining moneyspinner in around 12 months’ time.
Talent spotters on the lookout for future talent could do worse than pop into Gary Lockett’s gym in Cardiff, where young Welshman Alex Hughes has been turning heads.
Hughes turned pro in his home city in May, stopping the durable Mark Till in four rounds, and he looked a superb prospect. There was a measure of patience and poise not often seen in a 20-year-old debutant. Till, who is rugged and loves to come forward, could barely lay a glove on him, and eventually he was worn down by some accurate, hurtful punches. It was the first time in his career Till had been stopped.
Lockett has been around the block with the likes of Gavin Rees and Enzo Maccarinelli, and isn’t the type to get carried away with the promise a young hopeful who looks a handful in sparring. But Hughes’s defensive skills and spiteful punching have definitely gained his attention.
The young middleweight from South Wales has already overcome some major obstacles, having lost two years with failed brain scan issues. He’s got some more problems to deal with now. Promoters are enthused by young fighters with impressive amateur pedigree, or kids who can sell a lot of tickets. Hughes doesn’t possess either quality, so if he’s going to make it, it’s going to be on ability alone.
But he has two big things in his favour. He has an excellent coach, and he’s blessed with seemingly self-taught skills. Hughes is useful, and is said to be already handling fringe-level British title middles and super-middles with relative ease. With the right break here and there, the kid could go a long way.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.