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McDonnell Meets 'The Monster - The Science Behind The Gloves

An in-depth analysis of tomorrow's bantamweight clash.

By Aaron Cooper   - @intuboxingfm

For the hardcore boxing fans among us, the name Naoya Inoue brings both excitement and intrigue. The stars of the lower weights often get very little attention and an appearance in a top ten pound for pound list regularly leaves the more casual fan scratching their heads as to who this man could possibly be. But ladies and gentleman I don't blame you if you for any ignorance. Up until recently, most fight fans were left scrambling for YouTube to catch a glimpse of the 25-year old Japanese sensation, by which point the result was already known. In fact, it wasn't until last year that he made his debut stateside. Making his presence known in the western world. 

However, that is all about to change. Inoue will once again be available to watch for ESPN+ viewers in the states, and Sky Sports viewers in the UK. 

Tomorrow morning/afternoon, or evening depending on where in the world you are, Inoue faces a fresh challenge. In fact, this will be his toughest test to date. 'The Monster' will bid for a world title at a third weight having already won a world title at both junior and super-flyweight. His opponent is no stranger to the world title scene, and in this writers, humble opinion is quite possibly THE most underrated boxer in Britain today. That man is Jamie McDonnell. 

Since winning the WBA 'Regular' bantamweight title on the undercard of Carl Froch/George Groves 2, Jamie McDonnell has become something of a road warrior, defending his title in foreign territory in four of his six title defenses. Make no mistake, the heavily partisan crowd in favour of the challenger is something McDonnell is only too used to. He is no stranger to fighting a man from the land of the rising sun either, having beaten Inoue's countrymen Tomoki Kameda twice in 2016. 

Now, if you were to read around, you would likely be led to believe this is a routine win for Inoue. But after examining the facts, while I do marginally favour the challenger, this is by no means an easy nights work for Naoya Inoue.

Firstly the negative for the challenger is that he will be by far the smaller man in the ring on fight night. McDonnell is huge at the weight in more ways than one. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches, McDonnell has a six-inch height and reach advantage over his opponent, and at such a low weight that is a huge number. Speaking of size I do bring into question the challengers prediction that the fight will be ended with 'one punch'. McDonnell is a career bantamweight, whereas Inoue began his boxing career at 108 pounds. Inoue is riding the crest of an impressive knockout streak, but in McDonnell he faces a man undefeated in a decade that has an elite level work rate, and while he can be bloodied I cant recall a time where I have seen McDonnell in real trouble, well ever. So the punches that have laid waste to many an Inoue opponent will be met by a battle-hardened veteran of the sport who is ready to fight for the crown he has worked so hard to keep. 

So what has McDonnell got to do to win this fight?

As I've already touched on, McDonnell has the edge in height, reach and experience and that he has passed the chin check against world level bantam and jr featherweights. But he is facing an opponent that is beginning to grow into the peak of his powers, and many have already written the Doncaster man off. I feel the key for McDonnell is to win the battle of the jab. His jab is useful and educated and he must employ lateral movement. McDonnell is very adept at using the ring but does have a tendency to drift onto the ropes and he simply cannot do that against a vicious body puncher like Inoue. Fighting away from home means he is going to need to go to work early and make those physical advantages I have talked about work for him. The keypunch for the champion will be the uppercut on the inside. Given his physical advantages, Inoue will be looking to get on the inside at every chance he gets. He'll struggle to box at range against someone with such an advantage. McDonnell throws a fantastic short uppercut on the inside and this could be key to gaining Inoue's respect. It should be a shot that is there for him all night given Inoue's penchant for going to the body. One thing McDonnell must not do is stand in front of Inoue for too long, he will be made to regret it. McDonnell doesn't get the credit he deserves in my opinion, he does everything well. He employs great footwork, movement, a tight guard and a steady offense, and with trainer, Dave Coldwell in his corner. He has a boxing brain that has overseen some fantastic strategies in the ring of late.

For Inoue, he is going to have to get past the jab, which means he may have to take a few on the way in to get his own shots off.  His bodywork is possibly one of the best in the sport. He measures speed with precision and wastes very little. The epitome of offensive boxing economics. Inoue's jab to is world class, which he can turn with deadly power into a left hook. One criticism of his game is that his ability to cut off the ring can be left wanting at times, and sometimes finds himself chasing his foe around the ring. If this fight goes long, as I expect it too then Inoue MUST do better in making the ring as small as possible against a seasoned pro like McDonnell. A good friend of mine pointed out that McDonnell has a tendency to square up at times leaving himself open for a body shot. Inoue won't be the first men hell-bent on trying to obliterate the ribs of the lofty Doncaster man but to force the stoppage that's what he has to do. 

My prediction? This fight is by no means a foregone conclusion, and I think the boxing world could be sleeping on a shock of epic proportions. While I do side slightly with Inoue writing an experienced professional who has done this all before would be foolhardy. If McDonnell can survive the power of the challenger then he can make it a long hard, mentally exhausting night. For the winner, a place in the WBSS final likely awaits and will join Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete and Emmanuel Rodriguez in the tournament. 

May the best man win!