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Gavin McDonnell talks tactics and training ahead of European title defence

by Hugh Wilson | 12 Oct 2015

Approved Garages-sponsored fighter Gavin McDonnell defends his European super-bantamweight title for the first time on October 24th. The Doncaster boxer, who secured the title in stylish fashion last March, takes on experienced Frenchman Jeremy Parodi at the Sheffield Arena, live on Sky Sports.

We caught up with Gavin as he prepared for the fight.

You won the European title in March. How has life changed for you since then?

Winning was a big step. It puts you onto the European scene, and the next step is a move onto the world scene. It’s a nice base because there’s a lot of good European fighters. They’re the sort of fights I need to prepare myself for a world title shot.

How would you rate Parodi?

He’s solid. He’s got a good record – he’s only lost two of 40 fights. He did well against (Carl) Frampton until he got stopped but obviously Frampton is a different level. He probably feared Frampton a bit because of all the hype around him which he won’t do against me. He’ll see me more as his level and he’ll think he’s capable of beating me.

How are you preparing for him?

He’s only short so obviously we’re going to smash him at range basically. We know he’s going to try and get inside, it’s all he can do. That’s what we’ll be working round.

You’re training with Dave Coldwell now (along with twin brother Jamie). How are you feeling at this stage of the training camp?

Obviously with moving camps there’s a buzz about it, it’s all new training, all new methods, and we’re learning something every single day and enjoying what we’re doing. It’s exciting and that gives you a buzz and a confidence, and I can’t wait to get in there now.

So what’s the difference with Dave’s training?

Everything, from the times we train, the length of the sessions, what we’re doing in the sessions…There’s a lot more technique work, power work, strength work, speed work. Dave is putting his knowledge to us and making us better fighters.

I mean it can be a bit frustrating because you’re learning new stuff, and because you’re doing it for the first time you strip it back a bit, but we’re seeing the improvements now. This is for the long haul.

So you’re feeling good?

Bang on, feeling confident, it’s what we needed really. It’s nice to freshen things up.

Since the last fight you’ve become a married man. Is that good for your boxing?

I lived a married life anyway so nowt’s changed, but we made it official and it makes you complete, so now I can concentrate on my boxing.  

If you beat Parodi what do you think the next step will be?

There won’t be a world title shot in the near future. You’ve got to be ready. I’m not stupid – I’ve seen my brother (move up) and each level he’s upped it and he’s had to work his way up so he’s able to mix with the best at each level. I don’t want to grind away to the top and then get beat - when I get there I want to stay there. I want three or four good fights with fighters like Parodi to push me and make me learn. This is the next step up for me. Within 12 to 18 months we can possibly start (thinking about a world title shot).

You never know what might happen though. If I was offered a fight I wouldn’t turn it down, whoever it was. I’d believe I could win it but better, longer preparation means you’re more likely to get to the top and stay there. I know that if I keep winning the fight in front of me the bigger fights will come.

But one loss can suck you right back down to square one. Your sponsors might drop off, you might have to go back to work. I’m in a must-win for every fight.

It must be quite a skill then, judging opponents so they offer a step up, but not too much…

You have to trust people around you picking those fights. Bite off a bit more than you can chew and you’re up the creek without a paddle. One loss and it’s a long way back, waiting for chances. At the moment I have control, people want to fight me, I can pick and choose. And I’m on Sky as well. You get beat they might not want to touch you.

Do you get nervous before a fight?

You go into a ring, one on one, in front of 10,000 people, against someone who’s trained for ten weeks wanting to knock you out, it’s a scary thought. And on paper, all my fights are 50/50 – they think they can beat me.

But I want to make the fight as easy as possible. There’s no easy fight but I’ll use any slight improvements to make it easier, whether training, nutrition, anything. There’s not many people who want to go in there and get stuck in the trenches scrapping – well there’s one or two but they must be nuts. So you’ve got to put it in in the gym. If a man can beat me he deserves it because I train so hard, he’s got me at my best. No regrets.

I know that I’m living the dream basically, I’m getting to where I want to be, so I’ll put everything in. Also I don’t want to get beat cos it’s the one thing I’ve got over my brother. He’s a world champion but at the moment I’m unbeaten.  

If you weren’t a fighter what would you be doing?

Plastering. I still do the odd job for the crack with the lads, but I’ve packed in full time. This is my job now. But I enjoy doing little bits to be honest because it really makes you realise what you want to do.

But I can choose to do it, I don’t have to. My sponsors, including Approved Garages, mean that I can do a gym session now, when I’m at my best, and not before work or after work when you’re knackered. The quality of my sessions are so much better because I don’t have to work and that’s down to sponsors. I really appreciate all the help. 

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