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British Scene: Jamie McDonnell vs Stuart Hall Preview

Dave Oakes previews Saturday's British bantamweight clash between Jamie McDonnell and Stuart Hall.

The British boxing season finally gets underway on Saturday night when Jamie McDonnell and Stuart Hall clash in a triple title bout at the Doncaster Dome. Hall’s the current British bantamweight champion whilst the former British title holder McDonnell holds the European and Commonwealth belts.

Darlington’s Hall, 11-0-1 (7), makes the fourth defence of the title he won in June of last year – a retirement victory over Ian Napa in what was just his eighth fight as a pro. Hall’s rise from a six round fighter to champion in the space of a few months was impressive.

He was 28 when he turned pro and was never touted as a hot prospect, that didn’t deter him though and he’s gone from strength to strength since a draw in his fourth outing. He seems to thrive on a challenge, the fact he’s won inside the distance in all four of his title fights alludes to that, as well as to underrated punch power.

The way Hall dispatched John Donnelly in his last defence was noteworthy, Donnelly is just short of domestic title level but is a good operator. Hall walked through him in five rounds, seemingly hurting the Liverpudlian every time he landed. Hall’s physical strength made it look like man versus boy; something he hopes will be the case against McDonnell.

McDonnell, 17-2-1 (7), has fought at a higher level than his opponent, having participated in three European title bouts, including claiming the title in France against the heavy favourite and hometown fighter Jerome Arnould.

Like Hall, McDonnell has improved markedly over the past eighteen months; he’s developed into a very good European level fighter, something that didn’t look likely when he lost two fights in a row, against Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins respectively.

Volodymyr Sydorenko aside, Hall is the only worthy challenger in Europe. The winner of this bout will be faced with the choice of putting money in the bank via what look like easy defences or stepping up to world level in an exceptionally strong division, which is not an enviable task.

The bookies, like me, are having a hard time separating the two combatants. McDonnell is the younger but Hall may be the fresher fighter, McDonnell has hometown advantage but Hall doesn’t live a million miles away and will bring a large contingent of supporters with him, both are hungry for success and there’s nothing between them in terms of height and reach.

The only differences come stylistically and in terms of punch power, McDonnell relies on his skills, preferring to box at distance rather than trade, whereas Hall is more aggressive, albeit in a controlled manner – he certainly isn’t a brawler, he’s very strong physically and likes to push his opponents backwards.

Hall is the puncher in the fight, McDonnell’s sitting down on his punches more now than he was earlier in his career but isn’t a knockout artist. Hall lands heavy, energy sapping shots rather than one blow knockouts, the kind of shots that hurt just as much the following day.

This is a proper 50-50 fight and a great way to kick off the new season. I’m picking Hall’s strength and desire to overcome McDonnell’s skills; it’s going to be a close and exciting fight though.

e-mail Dave Oakes

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