British world title challengers Gavin McDonnell and Callum Smith suffered heartbreaking defeats in their world titles shots on Saturday.
Both British fighters came into the fights as underdogs, and despite spirited attempts, both would eventually suffer KO losses.
Gavin McDonnell, twin brother of former world champion Jamie McDonnell, fell to a 10th round TKO vs Daniel Roman.
The fight looked to be all but done in the opening six rounds, with Roman winning five according to McDonnell’s coach Dave Coldwell. He looked in complete control and McDonnell looked to be being outclassed.
But the British fighter looked to find his stride, and began utilising his reach advantage in the second half of the fight. It looked like Gavin was getting into his rhythm.
Roman went looking for the KO punch, but rounds 7, 8 and 9 saw McDonnell move forward, taking the initiative away from the American. Using a string jab, nifty footwork and the occasional straight right, McDonnell certainly wasn’t looking outclassed as many thought he would be.
In the 10th, McDonnell through a lunging right hand, which Roman saw and threw a perfectly right hand that landed square on the button of the Doncaster man. As Coldwell said “he walked onto a shot”.
Remarkably, McDonnell stayed on his feet. But Roman continued to lay on the pressure, and the writing was on the wall.
McDonnell falls to the canvas
He did beat the count, but was deemed unfit to carry on and referee Mark Nelson who waved the fight off.
A spirited effort, and McDonnell certainly proved that he belongs at world level. It will be interesting to see if he can capture a world title as his brother did in 2014.
In the main event of the evening, Callum Johnson looked to capture a world title of his own in just his 18th fight.
Johnson has fought just 90 seconds in the last two years going into the fight with unbeaten Russian, Arthur Beterbiev. Johnson also tragically lost his father in that period, and it’s a true testament to him as a fighter that he would fight someone as feared as Beterbiev during such a difficult time.
Beterbiev is one of the most feared men in the 175lb division, rocking a 12-0 (12KO’s) record.
The fight was an epic one
Johnson started on the offensive, landing clean jabs and walking the Russian down – something that wasn’t expected.
Beterbiev, however, being heavy-handed, landed several inside shots. Coming out of a clinch at the end of the round, Johnson let his guard slip, and Beterbiev landed a swift right hand that dropped Johnson. It looked like it was going to be a short night.
Coming out in the second, Johnson being the British warrior he is, didn’t allow Beterbiev to finish the job. He again took the initiative, backed the Russian up and made the fight a bit more scrappy.
Again, fighting out of the clinch, Johnson this time was the one to land the devastating punches. Landing a strong left hook, a straight right and a second left hook, Johnson dropped Beterbiev. It looked as though the tide was changing.
The third round saw both fighters looking a little tense. It seemed as though they had earned each other’s respect. Johnson continued to press the action, but failed to land anything damaging. Beterbiev’s iron jab broke the guard a few times of Johnson and done enough to nick the round.
Fourth Round breakthrough
The fourth saw Beterbiev continue to do damage behind his jab. Beginning to hurt Johnson, Beterbiev sought to land the same heavy right that dropped Johnson in the first round.
Johnson came into the clinch, but the well-drilled Beterbiev landed a straight right bang on the temple of Johnson. Dropped for a second time and this time in more trouble, referee Celestino Ruiz waved the fight, saving Johnson from anymore damage.
Post-fight, Johnson admitted he ‘froze’ after dropping Beterbiev. Should he have had more time in the ring over the last two years, he may very well have finished the Russian.
The fight was incredible and heartbreaking in equal measures. Both Brits had their moments, and didn’t look outclassed by any stretch – which some believed they would be.
Hats off to both.