Life is a struggle and, if you want to make something out of it, you
cannot take the easy way out. If you want to be a champion, you have
to face the challenges and win in a way that leaves absolutely no
Almost 2 years have gone by since John O’Donnell, 24-1 (11KO’s), and
Craig Watson, 19-3 (8), stepped into the ring at York Hall to
dispute Watson’s Commonwealth Welterweight belt in what turned out to
be an absolute thriller that saw O’Donnell winning a controversial
Craig made it clear from the opening bell that he was looking for a
stoppage. He closed immediately the distance working inside with hooks
to head and body while keeping low to force John to punch downwards
losing the power in his shots. Surprisingly, O’Donnell stood and
traded, fighting Watson’s fight and giving away the first five rounds.
The then-Commonwealth champion did manage to get under his opponent
skin and it was paying off.
But, in the sixth, Craig slowed down and became a bit static, allowing
the challenger to shift the tide in his favor. Finally, John started
using the jab to stop him in his tracks and landing straight punch
combinations. In both this round and the following, he pinned the
defending champ on the ropes where he unleashed an amazing variety of
In the eighth round, they went toe to toe again, only this time O’Donnell was effective in the exchanges, forcing Watson to change tactics and start to box. From this point onwards, it turned into a close fight, very difficult to score, with neither man backing off and both having their successes, while talking and taunting each other in Ali-Frazier style. In the end, O’Donnell was awarded a 115-114 victory by two judges with the third one giving it to Watson 116-113.
Since then, John ended up vacating the title because of an injury and
fighting and winning three bouts, stopping two of his opponents before the limit, while Craig fought and won six – four by TKO, gaining the
Light Middleweight Commonwealth title in the process. On February 5th,
these two men will step into a ring again, at Wembley Arena, with the
vacant British Welter title on the line, but there is much more at
stake than that. This is a fight neither man can afford to lose and
has all the ingredients to become a domestic classic.
First of all, it is a perfect blend of opposite styles: power versus
technique. John O’Donnell is the technician of the two and overall a
more refined boxer, also enjoying the height and reach advantages that
theoretically should make things easier for him. Watson proved he can
box too if he wants, but, against a skilled opponent like O’Donnell,
his main assets and keys to victory have to be aggression and power.
What made the first fight interesting is the fact that they ended up
switching roles, with John finishing as the aggressor and the slugger
and Craig boxing his way through the championship rounds. Anything can
Second, a good chunk of the public believes Watson had done enough to
keep his belt and cries for a rematch have been going on since. The
good thing is that the fighters want it just as bad. They both have
something to prove and they are craving to do it. Also, the dislike
between the two that spawned in the build up to their first encounter
is genuine. A grudge match is always a good sell and, unless it
involves David Haye and Audley Harrison, is proven to make for a
Last but not least, an important title is on the line, possibly a
stepping stone for both before moving to the next level.
We managed to get a few words from John O’Donnel upon his return to
London from Sheffield, where he seems to have had a good training
camp. He sounded relaxed and confident.
BOXINGINSIDER: When it was finally announced that Watson was going to
be your co-challenger for the British title, what was your first
JOHN O’DONNELL: I was ecstatic. He has been talking nonsense about me
since we first fought and hasn’t stopped. I look forward to set the
record straight and shut him up once and for all. I guess you can say
we have a genuine dislike for each other.
BI: Have you done anything different in the preparation for this
rematch compared to the first fight?
JOD: Not really. I did some good sparring in Sheffield, working on his
style. We are both unorthodox and I have every aspect of the southpaw
stance covered. I will keep sparring in London with John “Gorilla”
Ryder. The only necessary adjustement for me was in my head. This time
I will not go in the ring angry and fight his fight.
BI: What will be your next step, if you win?
JOD: I can’t answer that. All there is on my mind right now is this
fight. I am not looking past it.
BI: How do you feel about it?
JOD: Very good. The training is going really well and I really look
forward to it. I really do.
And so do we!
John O’Donnell will fight Craig Watson for the vacant British
Welterweight title at Wembley Arena on February 5th. On the same bill,
British Light Welterweight Champion Lenny Daws will defend his crown
against Ashley Theophane.
For tickets call :
Wembley Arena, 24hr Box Office 0844 815 0815 or
Ticketline 24hr Box Office 0844 888 4402 or