Gavin McDonnell v Rey Vargas: British twins aiming to make boxing history

By Nate WilliamsBBC Sport
McDonnell twins take on boxing Mr and Mrs quiz
Gavin McDonnell v Rey Vargas: WBC super-bantamweight title
Date: Saturday, 25 February Time: 22:00 GMT Venue: Hull Ice Arena
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Can you imagine seeing somebody who is a mirror image of you trying to do your job better than you can every single day?

It would be very annoying to most people but competition is a daily normality for boxing twins Gavin and Jamie McDonnell, who could become the first British identical twins to win world titles.

"This is massive because I don't know any other twins in the country that have done what we've done," said Gavin, who is unbeaten in 18 fights and faces Mexico's Rey Vargas, 26, for the WBC super-bantamweight title in Hull on Saturday.

"To be the first to do anything is an achievement in itself. Our kid Jamie has done a few things like that. He was the first European and world champion from Doncaster so I can't get them but to be the first twins means I get a bit of room on the stage."

The charismatic Doncaster duo, both 30, have each collected a pair of British and European titles but at different times.

Of course the main achievement that separates the two is Jamie's current status as the WBA bantamweight world champion - he has also previously held the IBF version.

'Nobody wants to be number two'

Gavin turned pro in 2010 - five years after his brother - but has quickly risen through the ranks and sees his next fight for the prestigious green and gold WBC belt as a chance to step out of Jamie's shadow.

"I'm being compared to him all of the time. He's Mr Bee's Knees, who's done everything - it takes the shine off my fights," said Gavin.

"Nobody wants to be a number two at anything. He's been number one all his life and now I'm giving him a taste of his own medicine. He's number two now if I win the WBC title. He's got the other belts - IBF and WBA, but if I can say, 'who's got the best world title?' No comeback."

But with twins there's always a comeback and Jamie duly interrupts: "You then have to defend it five times to be on a level with me.

"You only have that fight because you were in my ear saying, 'Get me in with Eddie Hearn [the McDonnell brothers' promoter],' so I got him a meeting with Eddie and I said, 'help him out Eddie, will you?' He would still be fighting at Donny Dome if I didn't help him out. He got a leg-up from me."

'Down and dirty' Hull Arena gives home advantage

Gavin's task on Saturday is no easy one as he goes up against a man unbeaten in 28 fights, with 22 knockouts. But promoter Hearn reckons the "down and dirty" Hull Ice Arena will give him an advantage.

"We had decent money on the table to go to Mexico for this fight but I thought Hull Arena can do strange things to a man," said Hearn.

"When you go in those changing rooms and walk out, it's a bear pit. If you're going to beat Vargas - a brilliant fighter - you have to make him feel uncomfortable.

"He has to open the door to the changing room and go 'what is this?' We need every advantage we can get in this fight."

Gavin McDonnell, 30, is four years older than Vargas and goes into the fight as underdog with the bookmakers
Gavin McDonnell, 30, is four years older than Vargas and goes into the fight as underdog with the bookmakers

He may seem the confident twin now but Gavin does admit he would not be boxing if it were not for his brother's achievements.

"If it wasn't for Jamie I'd be in the pub with the lads and working a 9-5 job," said Gavin, who worked as a plasterer alongside his twin.

"I never had an ambition to become world champion. I knocked boxing on the head at about 16 because I wanted to go out with my mates. But I saw Jamie at all his fights and saw him win titles. I didn't think I would do that but I wanted to have a go.

"Now I'm fighting for a world title and I believe I can win one. My brother's done it and I believe I can do it."

If Gavin cites his brother as inspiration, Jamie can now see the motivational benefit of such a close-knit rivalry.

"We push each other. Now he motivates me," said Jamie, who suffered the last of his two defeats in 2008.

"I've got to step it up otherwise people will say your brother's overtaking you and I can't have that. We're not jealous of each other. We are just born winners."

Twin ambition to win all four belts

Gavin McDonnell (left) captured a European title in 2015, some five years after Jamie (right)
Gavin (left) captured a European title in 2015, some five years after Jamie (right)

The pair are typical twins, always trying to get one over on each other in anything, from their follower numbers on social media to who could build the better house. But as their boxing profiles grow rapidly, there remains a problem.

"We get mistaken for each other all the time," said Jamie. "If someone calls me Gavin, I just go with it."

Gavin adds: "There'll be a tweet saying, 'Great to meet world champion Jamie McDonnell' and it was me. That makes me steam a little bit because I'm not a world champion yet."

There have already been world champion twins - the American Charlo brothers, Jermell and Jermall, own IBF and WBC belts in the light-middleweight division. The McDonnells aim to go one step better by one day completing the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO four-piece set.

"We could get all four between us," said Gavin.

"The question is, whose mantelpiece will they go on? I'm sure we can collect them all in a few years because how many twins have done that? I think every fight for me now will be big fights at the top alongside him."

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