British boxing opened the year losing one of its long list of world title holders, but on Saturday night there will be more hope – as opposed to expectation – that Gavin McDonnell can restore another British belt holder when he challenges for a vacant Super Bantamweight crown.
The WBC title, last held by Hozumi Hasegawa, will be up for grabs between McDonnell and Mexican Rey Vargas.
The pair are unbeaten as professionals, but there has been a significant gap in the power department over their respective careers, something heavily in favour of Vargas.
Vargas 28-0(22KO’s) is a strong favourite, and fairly so with his long reach, high work rate and heavy handedness.
The Mexican is also the younger of the two, despite contesting 10 more fights than McDonnell 16-0-2(4KO’s).
Gavin, the twin brother of WBA Bantamweight champion Jamie, has enjoyed a fruitful run of form since being held to a draw with Josh Wale in 2014.
McDonnell’s output which increases as the fight wears on, has been too much to handle for recent opponents, but despite improving his level of opposition, Vargas is another step up in class entirely.
Like Gavin, Vargas enjoys his best work at range, and on the back foot. McDonnell is able to pepper opponents with his ramrod jab, and stinging shots to the body to slow them down.
While Vargas – much looser on defence – finds his success with bursts of punches to the head, his long leavers helping him to land from an array of angles.
Vargas takes risks, but his chin has held up very nicely, and McDonnell – likely a heavier hitter than his record suggests – still does not have the necessary power to hurt Vargas.
Vargas working the pads this week – via IFL TV YouTube:
That in itself will cause problems, especially if Vargas can take away McDonnell’s discipline and draw the Yorkshire man into the trenches.
For all his positives, Vargas does have the look in the ring of a fighter that can be frustrated.
McDonnell will need to stick to his boxing diligently, but forcing Vargas to do the chasing is arguably the best chance he has of coming away with a world title.
Unfortunately, Vargas just seems to have that bit too much class for McDonnell to cope with in just his 19th professional outing.
With a similar skillset to Leo Santa Cruz, Vargas – who looks huge for a Super Bantam – has the opportunity to show off his full repertoire in front of a packed Ice Arena in Hull.
McDonnell will ease into the contest, but following a strong start from the visitor, it will prove extremely hard for McDonnell to ease Vargas out of his comfort zone.
With Gavin in need of chasing down the stretch, Vargas can open up in some style, possibly forcing a stoppage late on.
But the pick is for McDonnell to continue to press until the final bell, where Vargas will be declared a clear victor on the scorecards.
On the undercard, Luke Campbell 15-1(12KO’s) should take care of Jairo Lopez 21-6(14KO’s) inside the distance, although he won’t be as quick as Dante Jardon to the stoppage – when Jardon beat Lopez inside 2 rounds.
Tommy Coyle 22-4(10KO’s) can still be a factor in the Super Lightweight division domestically, but will have his hands full for the full 10 rounds against late replacement Rakeem Noble.
Noble 11-1(5KO’s) is an improving fighter, who has a real chance to move himself into a prospect status if he is to stun Coyle on Saturday night.
But while Noble will have his successes, Coyle will run out as a deserved winner on points.