By Matt Bevan
It wasn’t long ago Gavin McDonnell hadn't even stepped into a ring for a professional fight. Now, after he was influenced by twin brother Jamie’s European title victory on the road in France, he gets his own shot at the big time in a few weeks.
McDonnell will face Mexican Rey Vargas for the vacant WBC super-bantamweight world title, recently vacated by the now-retired Hozumi Hasegawa, at the Hull Arena on February 25, live on Sky Sports.
It caps an incredible rise for the Doncaster man, who still has less than 20 fights on his record as a pro. It also marks a return to Hull where McDonnell secured two of the biggest wins of his career so far.
“I’m very happy it’s now officially confirmed, as I’ve known for a while, but you never truly believe it’s really on until it’s signed off properly,” he told Boxing Scene. “To get it here in the UK is massive and I’m over the moon with that, so I’ve got to thank Matchroom and Eddie Hearn for that.
“I don’t know too much about Vargas, but I leave that all down to my trainer Dave Coldwell and I’ll focus on working to the best of my ability in training. The WBC belt is the one that everybody wants, as it’s the most recognised and prestigious of the titles out there, so I’m pinching myself that it’s me going for it still.
“I’ve got good memories in Hull and it’s only 40 minutes away from my front doorstep in Doncaster. It will be almost three years to the day when I step in with Vargas since I won the British title against Leigh Wood and the win over Vusi Malinga was the best one so far for me. It’s becoming almost a second home for me.”
A win over Vargas would give McDonnell a big chance to step out from the shadow of his brother Jamie, who currently holds the WBA ‘regular’ bantamweight title and previously held the IBF title.
But Gavin knows he can rely on his brother to push him to the next level, although he admits it will be nice to have a belt that his brother doesn’t.
McDonnell doesn’t deny he isn’t the most gifted fighter to step between the ropes, but says his willingness, desire and total dedication to the sport will see all his hard work culminate in that one special moment on February 25.
“I’m living the dream,” he continued, “and I’ve been following in Jamie’s footsteps so far, so it will be nice to be the centre of attention and have something he doesn’t have. I’m not the most gifted, but I’m proof that if you dedicate yourself 100 per cent to something and keep grinding away you will get there.
“I enjoy the plastering but I’m so glad that I made the decision to put the gloves back on. To have Jamie pushing me as well, someone who has reached the top and is still up there, will only help me. He had an off night in Monaco and with me winning this, it will help spur him on too.
“2017 will be the year the McDonnell twins not only come on leaps and bounds, but we will finally come out from under the radar.”