Tallaght bantamweight McDonagh hoping for redemption in Aberdeen against unbeaten Billy 'The Butcher'
HIS dreams were dashed when the ring announcer called out the verdict after 10 gruelling rounds at Celtic Clash 7 in November.
Dylan McDonagh had left it all in the ring. After what had become, ultimately, a nightmare end to fight camp for what was supposed to be his biggest night as a boxer, it had all ended in tears.
As he gathered his thoughts in the changing room after a points decision in his opponent Carl McDonald’s favour, emotions poured out of the Jobstown 33-year-old.
He apologised to his wife Sinead and his team and was, at that exact moment, as low as he ever has been as an athlete.
Fast forward 48 hours, however, and McDonagh was back in the gym, against everyone’s orders, setting his sights on the next step, the next challenge, the next title.
"I was just so disappointed after being beaten and after what I believe was some really bad scoring," McDonagh said. Not the result, just the scoring.
"But I’m not one to sit around and feel sorry for myself. There was no way I was going to let it drag me down any longer than it needed to.
"I needed to get back to the grind, work on what had gone wrong and learn from the defeat.
"Nobody ever knew this except my team, which is about as close-knit as you’ll find, but I had to take two weeks off with 25 days remaining in camp.
"I had badly hurt my ribs and couldn’t hit a bag, hit pads, spar, nothing. It was a massive steback but there was no way in hell I was backing down from an Irish title fight. I recovered with 10 or 11 days left before the fight and we went back at it. Worked hard and gave it a right go."
It shows a deep-rooted steel inside the little man. Work, work, work is how McDonagh operates and he has brought in a new strength and conditioning coach, Gareth Francis from Kickstart Fitness.
Complementing what his boxing coach Jonathan Lewins has brought to his game, McDonagh really only now feels ready to take his chance at redemption as he takes on Billy 'The Butcher' Stuart tonight in Aberdeen for the BUI Celtic Super Bantamweight title.
"Everything has been great. Gareth has brought things to a new dimension. He goes into every detail as to why I’m doing each exercise and it’s all based around my boxing," added McDonagh.
"Last time too, it was all a little rushed with Jonathan. I only moved over to him as the fight was being negotiated and he had to change a few things and give me some Plan B or C.
"Obviously then getting injured a month or so out didn’t help us but I’ve been in the gym with Jonathan ever since the loss and he’s transformed me.
"I really can’t wait for it."
The Tallaght bantamweight has also been sparring with IBF super bantamweight champ TJ Doheny, as he prepared for last week’s contest against Daniel Roman in a world title unification showdown.
"It was brilliant, only that kind of experience can get you ready for a title shot and, with the greatest respect to my opponent next weekend, he’s not on TJ’s level. Not very many are.
"He’s a world champion, he was very sharp and elusive but I felt really good in there with him, really strong.
"Actually, this is as strong and as sharp as I’ve ever been and I can’t see any result other than a victory."
Across the ring in Aberdeen tonight will be 21-year-old Stuart, who comes in with an impressive amateur background at youth level and boasts a 7-0 record.
The local boy is confident of getting the result and bagging his first title.
He said: "I think this is the most motivated version of me that the fans will see.
"I'm obviously 7-0 now and this is the first real test, the first opponent I've faced who's come over to win, and obviously this is my first title fight.
"I know what to expect as I've seen plenty of videos of Dylan on YouTube, and have worked on a gameplan with my coach Dave McAllister and hopefully I can execute it tonight."
It is what Stuart hopes is the first step on the ladder as he looks to move right through the ranks in 2019 and with age on his side he feels he can do it at multiple weights.
"As you can see from my record," adds Stuart, I've got power enough to deal with heavier opponents and I'm comfortable up to feather and super feather.
"I'm a very ambitious guy and I'm looking to win tonight before I move on to British level, potentially in an eliminator and onto a British title.
"Obviously I'm still young but I've been getting plenty of experience and am aiming at big things.
"This is what I've been aiming for, I'm not overdoing it, not getting ahead of myself.
"These big fights can't come any quicker for me, starting tonight, and for the rest of the year and beyond.