Being knocked down has always presented the opportunity for an even greater rise, and in the booming atmosphere of the National Exhibition Centre, Sunderland’s Kiaran MacDonald lived it to the fullest.
Three months ago, MacDonald navigated his way to the final of the European Championships in Yerevan, Armenia. He was supremely confident in his ability to win, but fell short, losing by unanimous decision to Spain’s Martin Molina. Even though he had won a silver medal, he was shattered.
“I was absolutely heartbroken,” he said. “I beat the boy who I lost to in the final before so it hurt even more. I sort of got a bit complacent, which you can’t do at this level because everyone is upping their game and improving all the time. You’ve got to stay on it. I think that’s going to push me on.”
As MacDonald boxed his way into the Commonwealth finals on Saturday, the pain of that defeat drove him. He gave a comprehensive exhibition of his skill and nous in his one-sided semi-final bout with Wales’s Jake Dodd, his Team GB teammate. From the beginning, MacDonald’s intelligence and speed neutralized the sometimes reckless aggression of Dodd. He was in constant motion, picking his punches precisely as Dodd could not keep up.
After breezing through the first round, he dropped Dodd twice in the second round, brandishing the strong right hook that belies his 5ft 5in stature. In the third round, MacDonald finished him off. He fired a vicious right hook straight on Dodd’s chin, its sheer force collapsing Dodd’s legs, sending him sliding backwards on the canvas and propelling MacDonald into the final.
“I put a nice little crisp finish on it. Put a little silver lining on it,” he said, smiling. “But we can’t rest on that. We go again tomorrow. I want to top that podium.”
As he looks to conclude his revenge tour, MacDonald will face Amit Panghal of India, a Commonwealth Games silver medalist in Gold Coast 2018 and a former world championship silver medalist. It is difficult company, but MacDonald will carry with him the lessons he learned from the European final.
“Not to get too complacent,” he said. “When you feel like you’ve got nothing left, you can always dig deep and find something in yourself. I feel like you don’t want those feelings again. When I lost, I was absolutely heartbroken, so this time I can’t leave it to chance. I’m going to absolutely fight my heart and soul out, and what will be will be on the day. He’s a world class competitor but it’s another one on my resume.”
In a hectic day of semi-finals across genders and weight divisions, numerous British boxers advanced to finals. Scotland’s Sam Hickey gained his own revenge from the European Champions in another battle between Team GB teammates, this time dominating Lewis Richardson in the men’s middleweight before knocking him out with a destructive right hook. Richardson had beaten Hickey in the European semi-final to win a silver medal.
The wins continued throughout the day. In the women’s minimum weight, England’s Demie-Jade Resztan clinched a dominant win over Lethabo Modukanele. Wales’ Rosie Eccles defeated Eireann Nugent of Northern Ireland in the women’s light middleweight and Scotland’s Sean Lazzerini will face Wales’ Taylor Bevan in the men’s light heavyweight final.
Despite their defeats, three countries confirmed their first medals of this year’s Commonwealth Games; Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia each won bronze medals thanks to Modukanele, Alcinda Panguane and Patrick Chinyemba.