© Curtis McCormick / Saddo Boxing
The only title fight to go all twelve rounds this past Saturday on Frank Maloney and Steve Wood's promotion in Wigan, England was also the most bitterly contested scrap at the Robin Park Centre.
The battle featured two reigning English titlists, flyweight Chris Edwards and bantamweight Jamie McDonnel, each attempting to demonstrate their worthiness to assume the inaugural British Super Flyweight Championship.
While Edwards brought a dodgy record on paper to the fight, the compact dynamo from Stoke was in the middle of a definite reversal of fortune, having defeated ex-Commonwealth Flyweight titlist Dale Robinson before fighting him to a standstill for the British and Commonwealth Flyweight crowns this past April.
McDonnel had nine fights under his belt since turning professional just two years ago, but had so far appeared to be delivering on his bright amateur promise with an unbeaten record and an English title win on his resume.
The kid from Doncaster enjoyed considerable fan support in the arena but Edwards sought to take that advantage away from the tall, stringy McDonnel by literally leaping into action once the bell rang to begin hostilities.
Edwards' lunges carried roundhouse punches designed to chop down the far taller McDonnel and the youngster backpedaled in full retreat mode as The Potteries' version of the Tasmanian Devil was relentlessly in hot pursuit.
Soon, McDonnel was sporting a bloody nose but began to shove the sprinting Edwards off and slowly became accustomed to the pace of the tiny terror's attacks. McDonnel held his ground and tries to pick off Edwards, succeeding on one occasion to clip the veteran hard before the round ends.
Edwards focuses on the body in the second and backs off somewhat from the frenetic pace of the first round. McDonnel uses the breathing room to home in his counter left hook and Edwards is suddenly more cautious on the way in.
McDonnel finds gold as the round is ending with two solid lefts followed by a howling right hand that forces Edwards to backpedal, only McDonnel doesn't want to stop punching when the bell goes and Edwards fires back before he and McDonnel both draw stern warnings from referee Victor Loughlin for the naughties.
McDonnel tries his fortune at stalking Edwards in the third and is indeed landing first with straight shots inside the looping roundhouses of the shorter man ,who is shown the error of keep the non-punching hand well below jaw level. Edwards makes a correction and comes in better, battering McDonnel's midsection and head with both hands before getting back out.
McDonnel's nose begins bleeding again but that just makes him madder as he reaps revenge upon Edwards with a two fisted volley while the second slips way. While Edwards has been both busier and numerically more successful with his efforts, McDonnel's direct hits are more eye catching as Edwards is usually caught off balance either rushing in or rushing back out.
Great back and forth action erupts to start the fourth frame as the two soldiers of the north take turns bringing the punishment, the flow of which is only interrupted once someone breaks the chain of offense with a counter and then takes over the leather delivery.
McDonnel takes the lead by cranking in hard lefts and rights before backing off and trying to establish the jab. Edwards takes away that avenue for McDonnel by getting on the inside and putting him on the defensive the rest of the round.
Edwards opens the fifth session by ramping up the pressure and McDonell goes back to slugging with the invader. But this brawling suits the smaller Edwards and he soon makes McDonnel pay the price for giving away his height, briefly hurting the younger man with a thumping counter left. Edwards looks the business in this round until McDonnel roars back and cracks his antagonist with a shivering uppercut but Edwards returns to the high work rate and pressure, leaving a winded McDonnel to bob and weave his way out of bother.
After Edwards rams home left hand counters to ring in the sixth, McDonnel responds by going to the body before the midway point in the bout is celebrated with another slugfest. The cycle of concentrated violence is only broken when Edwards spears McDonnel to the body and the reedy Doncaster lad goes to the ropes.
Edwards tries to further complicate McDonnel's survival strategy but is flung off before succeeding on the next attempt to get inside and steers numerous shots to McDonnel's ribs. McDonnel is gasping for air under the fury of Edward's deployment. McDonnel resurfaces behind a few smart jabs that restrain Edwards, but the bald Staffordshire native ends the round with another attempt to break McDonnel in two.
Once the seventh starts, it's another day in the body shop for Edwards as he manages to put more dents in McDonnel until the English bantam strapholder gets fed up and seeks reparations. The bristling McDonnel goes forward to mete out the penalties to Edwards in the form of two good left hooks but is soon back on the ropes and under fire downstairs.
Edwards crashes home a big right hand but is suddenly a spent force as McDonnel somehow weathered the storm. The frame ends with both looking more than a bit worn out from the hot pace that they've somehow maintained since the first round.
Unable to do anything other than stand toe to toe and trade, the two contenders go at it like starving dogs fighting over a last meal. Edwards gets the better of it, but McDonnel just won't back off. He nails Edwards with a stern right hand before finding the mark with an uppercut that snaps Edwards' head back.
But the former journeyman won't slow down. McDonnel keeps up the storm of left hands until Edwards gains a respite behind a sizzling right to the temple. Again, McDonnel won't let the disorienting blow cause him to lose focus and he bangs Edwards with a right of his own as the eighth ends.
The heat is on again in the ninth round with McDonnel absorbing two nice rights from Edwards before returning the compliment with a single shot. Both are very tired but don't resort to hanging all over each other, rather Edwards chases McDonnel as they stagger around the ring and continue to swap punches in anger. McDonnel gets a new surge of energy first and takes a combination from Edwards in order to heave in two lefts and a big right in sharp succession that definitely hurt Edwards, who is saved further aggravation by the bell.
The tenth finds Edwards displaying caution but ratchets in a good left hand before McDonnel responds by coming forward and finding target with both hands. They trade briefly until Edwards rips off a solo sequence that turns back into a two man show. Edwards pulls out of the conflagration and gets on his bike, looking to gain precious seconds of rest. McDonnel tries to cut off the ring but is just too knackerd at the end of the last non-championship round.
McDonnel comes out fresher in the eleventh than he had been and he zips in a pair of counters before taking a few from Edwards for his trouble. Edwards bulls McDonnel to the ropes and gives him a battering before the youth fights his way off behind a couple of quality rights.
Another tear-up breaks out with Edwards holding forth, then McDonald before Jamie gets shoved onto the ropes and belted around. A defiant McDonnel spins the transgressor to launch a brutal uppercut followed by a two handed hiding. Edwards refuses to let matters stand and shakes McDonnel with a big shot. Edwards loses his mouthpiece and when the contest resumes, gains the upper hand over McDonnel during the pitched battle that finishes up the eleventh sequence.
The twelfth round saw both fighters leave everything in the ring, hurtling seemingly endless amounts of abuse at the other, yet somehow they managed to finish the fight on their feet.
By the time the smoke had cleared enough for the judges tally their scorecards, Chris Edwards, 11-12-3 (3), once again climbed above his humble early career and was awarded the split decision by marks of 116-113, 115-114 and 113-116, over the brave and big hearted Jamie McDonnel, 8-1-1 (2).
Edwards is now the newly minted British Super Flyweight Champion.