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A day in the life of a boxing champion

by Hugh Wilson | 19 Mar 2015

We caught up with Approved Garages sponsored bantamweight Gavin McDonnell ahead of his European title fight on March 28…

It’s ten days before his EBU Super Bantamweight title fight and Gavin McDonnell is starving. And by starving, we don’t mean it’s been an hour since his last Mars Bar.

“On a typical day I’ll have half a carb (cereal) bar before my morning session, then I might come home and have something like a poached egg on its own – no toast – or a small bowl of porridge. And when I say small I mean extreme,” says McDonnell.

You might think he’ll make it up in the evening with a big blow-out, something from the take-away perhaps, or certainly a meal loaded with hunger quashing carbs. Not a bit of it. “At the moment my evening meal is a piece of salmon and bit of broccoli.” 

“We stick to a bit of protein. We don’t have any carbs at night time. We have some carbs in the morning and afternoon – a tiny bit of porridge or a cereal bar loaded with carbs - and we have carb drinks through the day as well.”

Sacrifice to succeed

No chips, no rice, no potatoes, no pasta. That’s the lot of a serious bantamweight boxer in the final weeks before a major fight. It’s not a regime McDonnell enjoys, but it’s one he accepts as a means to an end, which all being well will mean a European title on March 28 and a big step forward towards a shot at a world crown. 

“The portions are tiny and you get really hungry but this is what I want to do, and if it’s going to benefit me and my family I have to think that it’s only for the next five years so you’ve just got to bear it,” he says. 

“I don’t want any regrets. I want to give myself every opportunity of getting there, making a few quid and winning a load of titles. But just to be able to walk into a little shop and pick something up without feeling guilty about eating it – a packet of crisps, a can of pop – it does make you appreciate these tiny things in life.”

Fit to fight 

Not that McDonnell expects too much. Right now he dreams of a pulled pork sandwich but more generally he boxes to make a life for his young family (he has a baby son). “When I get out (of boxing) I just want a few quid behind me, to go back to a day job with a bit of a foundation for life,” he says. 

It’s worth remembering that McDonnell’s minimalist diet is combined with a punishing fitness and training routine. His day is split roughly into two or three sessions. A pre-breakfast session of running, hill sprints and other fitness work is achieved – don’t forget - on half a cereal bar. He is in the gym every day at 8am and the fitness session lasts till about 9.30am. 

In the afternoon there may be more gentle fitness work, and the evening session – from about 5pm – is dedicated to sparring and pad work.

The pre-fight training camp is ten weeks long: nine gruelling fitness and sparring weeks followed by a week of relaxation. “The previous weeks can really take a toll on your body so to be ready for the fight you need to recover,” says McDonnell. “That’s what happens in the final week.”

Fighting and scrapping

McDonnell believes the hard work and sacrifice will pay off. He’s “very confident” ahead of the fight, which is the chief support to Kell Brook’s world title defence at a sold-out Sheffield Motorpoint Arena. “It’s a big bill, 10,000 going to be there, it just gets better and better,” he says. “You start looking forward to it now. Everybody’s going to be for me at the arena so maybe that can spur me on.”

His opponent is the Ukrainian Oleksandr Yegorov, another unbeaten fighter. McDonnell admits that Yegorov, like any opponent, can be dangerous, but thinks he has the weapons to out box him and, if necessary, out scrap him too.

“I’ve got height and reach and that’s what I plan to use, along with my experience, but if it comes down to it and I have to use my heart and dig in then we’ll see what I’m made of,” he explains. “I hope it doesn’t – I want the easiest night possible and nobody likes a war – but I’m preparing for everything.”

Support makes the difference

His corner will work out tactics and, on the night, McDonnell will put them into effect. One permanent member of his support is twin brother and two time world champion Jamie McDonnell. Gavin believes that if all goes well on the 28th his own world title shot might happen within a year.

Also in his corner is Approved Garages, who McDonnell credits with helping him get to the verge of a European title. “Without you guys I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I’d have to go to work, split my time and I wouldn’t be 100% focused. I’d get to the gym tired. Without you guys I wouldn’t have the energy to put into sessions and I can’t thank you enough.”

Win tickets to the fight with Approved Garages!

We’ve got two tickets to give away to one of the biggest fight nights of 2015, with Gavin’s European title fight the chief support to Kell Brook’s world title defence at a sold-out Sheffield Motorpoint Arena (March 28).

Entering couldn’t be easier. Gavin McDonnell’s Doncaster (DN) postcode is home to eight Approved Garages. For a chance to win tickets, visit this Approved Garages page, and tell us how many Approved Garages there are in your own postcode area. Tweet the answer to @approvedgarages using the hashtag #GavMacTickets.  Everyone who does will be put into the hat for a chance to win! 

The competition closes on March 25 2015.  

Update: Read our review of Gavin's bid to become European Champ

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