9 May 2010 – By Leonard Gunning
John ODonnell successfully returned to the ring after an eight month absence to produce a display of controlled, delectable boxing which had connoisseurs of perfect pugilism licking their lips. O’Donnell’s performance also forced his name into contention for a tilt at Paul McCloskeys European light-welterweight title.
The London based Galwegian picked apart durable Hungarian Laszlo Robert Balogh inside five rounds on the undercard of the John Murray-Gary Buckland contest for the European lightweight title at the Kingsway Leisure on Friday, May 7. The fight blew away any potential iron oxide which may have developed on his joints during his lay off and improved the former Commonwealth welterweight champion’s record to 23-1 (KO 11).
ODonnell has now dropped down a weight to challenge at light-welter and weighed in lighter than at any time in his career since his debut six years ago. Although still just a smidgen over the 10 stone limit the slick southpaw appeared comfortable at the weight and well able to cut the final pound to make the championship limited of 140.
The Shepards Bush stylist bounded impatiently to the ring accompanied by his trainer Robert McCracken and got straight down to business in the first. The taller rangier ODonnell looked to land scythe like right hooks but was getting picked off as he moved into the danger zone, an occupational hazard of having your six shooters slung at waist height. As the opening round drew to a close ODonnell grew in confidence and landed a variety of complex combinations until the bell rang for respite.
With any remaining rust brushed off a determined ODonnell came out in the second and for the next six minutes he purposefully prowled panterlike pummelling Balogh in an exhibition of controlled aggressive boxing which Mayweather Jnr would have been proud of. Switching from head to body and delivering corkscrew uppercuts barely a punch was wasted in the two fisted assault.
In the fourth round ODonnell was now dominant and the Hungarian who had been beaten only once in his nine previous contests began to redden about the head and body as a result of the Galway fighter’s long lunging straight lefts. These marks now matched the rope abrasions on his back formed as he was slapped, banged and walloped from side to side against the ropes with no exit route available. Cute, smooth moving and confident ODonnells shot selection was high paced and furious whilst remaining accurate. Although his work was without doubt superb to observe it lacked the immediate destructiveness which fellow light welters such as Marcos Maidana or Lucas Matthysse possess.
ODonnell came out for the fifth and looked as if he was loading up in an effort to chalk up a stoppage which may on occasion have eluded him earlier in his career. The Budapest native began look towards his corner for inspiration as he wilted under the relentless pressure being doled out. This encouraged ODonnell who offered repeat prescriptions of his bitter medicine and landed volley after volley upon the hapless Balogh until referee Michael Alexander stepped in to stop the bout with four seconds remaining in the round.
The flashy southpaw greeted the decision with muted celebration as if to imply that this was just the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his career.
After the fight he was keen to outline his reasons for dropping down a division and taking this fight. The main reason was to see how I felt at light welter and I feel strong, very strong. I am going to make my mark and I am ready to do so. I want either Paul McCloskey or Ajose Olusegun as soon as possible explained ODonnell. Manager Mick Hennessey was in agreement and added That was a really strong performance, I want to get Paul McCloskey next in what would be a wonderful All-Ireland clash and it is a fight that John would win.
That potential clash of awkward flashy southpaw styles could produce either the one of the worst or best fights seen in Ireland.