When trainer, promoter and manager Dave Coldwell talks about boxing, people tend to listen. After all, this is the man who has had a hand in the careers of the likes of Ryan Rhodes, Kell Brook and George Groves. Liverpool’s Tony Bellew is one of the fighters on Coldwell’s current roster, along with Doncaster twins Gavin and Jamie McDonnell.
When we visit his Rotherham gym, Coldwell is putting both McDonnell brothers through their paces. Gavin – sponsored by Approved Garages - fights this weekend at the Sheffield Arena, in the first defence of the European super-bantamweight title he won in March. Coldwell is not underestimating the challenge posed by French opponent Jeremy Parodi.
“Most boxing fans in the UK will know him from when he was stopped by Carl Frampton, but it will be a tough fight for Gavin. Parodi is different from the opponents he’s had before and it will be a real fight for him, his toughest yet,” says Coldwell.
The plan is to use Gavin’s greater height and reach to wear Parodi down from distance, but whatever the tactics, Coldwell believes it’s the right fight at the right time for McDonnell.
“Real fights make a real fighter,” he says. “Gavin will learn from it. It’s what he needs.”
Up to now, Gavin has "perhaps over achieved", adds the trainer. But Coldwell now thinks McDonnell is acquiring the skills he needs to match his innate drive and ambition.
“It’s a similar job to the one we had with Curtis Woodhouse,” says Coldwell, talking of the former professional footballer turned boxer. “Gavin is not the most naturally gifted fighter I’ve worked with but I love his work ethic, his drive.”
“The great thing about Gavin is he can be taught. So you might have a kid who starts out with 7/10 for talent but never gets above that because he doesn’t have the drive. Others start at 3/10 but want to improve, listen, work hard and they make 9/10 boxers. Gavin is improving every day and he’s getting what he needs.”
Jamie McDonnell is in no doubt that his brother, like himself, can get to world champion level. “Oh this kid can be a champion,” he says. “Getting the right fights takes time but he’s doing the right things, chipping away, and he’ll get his chance.”