June 26, 2018
June 26, 2018
George Groves

Action Images/Reuters/Adam Holt

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GAVIN McDONNELL’S excellent run of form has attracted the heavyweight backing of another fighter who is currently on fire. Tony Bellew trains alongside the super-bantamweight at Dave Coldwell’s gym and the former WBC cruiserweight holder believes that the 32-year-old’s wins over Gamal Yafai and Stuart Hall (both by decision) should lead to another world title shot.

Doncaster’s McDonnell lost to Rey Vargas for the vacant WBC world title in February of last year yet has rebounded in fine fashion and raised a few eyebrows when he soundly and roundly out-pointed the highly-touted Yafai for a WBC International title in March.

The win over Hall flew under the radar somewhat yet with his stock currently high in the ratings — he is ranked at number three by the WBC — Bellew believes that his stablemate is on course for a world title tilt either later this year or in 2019.

“A lot of people had that fight with Yafai a real 50-50, but it’s a testament to the character and will of Gavin why he went in there that night and carried out the task in such a manner,” he said. “Believe me, Yafai is an outstanding young fighter and Gavin went in there and made it look easy at times.  The Vargas fight last year was perhaps a step too far at that very moment, but he’s learnt his lessons and the improvements have been unbelievable.”

Bellew added that McDonnell has “outgrown” British level and hopes to see him add another world title to the family trophy cabinet following his brother Jamie’s IBF and WBA bantamweight title successes prior to his loss to Naoya Inoue in Japan last month, in which he struggled to make weight.

The Internet may be putting the squeeze on newspapers in general, and local ones in particular, but writers can still produce fine topical and timely work. John Gibson of the Evening Chronicle caught up with former IBF cruiserweight champion and TV pundit Glenn McCrory and discovered that the 53-year-old wants to tackle the issue of dehydration in boxing.

McCrory believes that for too long fighters have tried, and increasingly failed, to boil themselves down to an artificial poundage in order to gain what they and their teams perceive to be an advantage. Glenn, though, admitted that he used to fool himself into thinking the struggle to make weight had benefits that out-weighed the obvious health costs and issues.

“When I defended my world title against Jeff Lampkin in 1990 I was so dehydrated making the weight that I knew I was going to lose the fight even before I got into the ring,” he told The Chronicle. “I was so weak and exhausted that my biggest fear wasn’t losing the title — I feared for my life. I genuinely mean that. Nothing has changed since then though. The problem has never gone away.”

“You’re playing Russian roulette with your health,” he added. “It’s natural to take risks. Fighters are always looking for an advantage and are prepared to go to great lengths to get it. As a consequence they are routinely taking risks in terms of dehydration to get down to certain weights and we need to look at that including hydration levels generally in the run-up to fights and post-fight too.”

McCrory aims to do something about it, admitting that he has raised the issue with the BBBoC and the WBC and will continue to champion the cause. While failure to make the weight hits the headlines and leads to comments and criticism fighters around the globe are sweating themselves down daily and risking their health in the process. The benefits are often dwarfed by the risks, both in the short and long-term, as well as impacting on the ability to perform in the ring.

With the issue of mental health in boxing now at the forefront, the long-standing problem of fighters trying to gain a legal physical handicap over opponents by out-weighing them dramatically on fight night has somewhat faded into the background, only rearing its head when a pale, emaciated fighter staggers to the scales only to declare “No mas” in their battle to hit the stipulated poundage. It is time for a discussion about weight again, even if it leads into the same cul de sacs that is has headed down in the past.

Fighters will always try to gain every and any advantage, and the sport has got fudging its way past check weigh ins and other balances down to a T due to the sports science available to them, but the issue is still there and the dangers are still very real.

The issue of the wide scorecards in Josh Taylor’s favour after his win over Viktor Postol on Saturday night is already firmly in boxing’s rear-view mirror, with many now turning their attention to the Edinburgh-based boxer’s next move.

George Groves trains alongside Taylor under the watchful eye of Shane McGuigan and the WBC’s super-middleweight holder knows enough about world class talent to declare that his friend is heading to the world level following his latest win.

Groves has no doubt Taylor will join him as a world champion. He told Scotland’s Daily Record and Sunday Mail that: “Beating Postol shows he’s now at world level.  He can not only win a world title but keep it.”

George Groves

Groves also described the 27-year-old as “crazy” due to his inability to switch off from the his chosen profession, something that “The Saint” believes is important if you are to avoid going stale and he has tried to pass down a few hard-earned tips to Taylor.

“He shares a room with Lee McGregor in this camp and Lee has been sending in videos of Taylor up at one in the morning shadow boxing,” he said. “He has no off button. That’s the kind of thing where I’d like to put an arm around him and say: ‘Mate, I don’t even shadowbox when I’m the gym! Have a rest, man!’”