Pro News

Never Say Die- Eric Donovan describes how “freak injury” almost led to retirement

A week out from an Irish title fight, Eric Donovan [8(4)-0] is the sort of boxer with the awareness to acknowledge his own journey.

The Kildare featherweight has suffered his fair share of hardship over the years, not least in 2018, but Donovan feels that this all adds to ‘the moment’ tonight [March 30th] in Dublin when he takes on Stephen McAfee [5(2)-0-1] at the National Stadium for a national title, live on TG4.

The Athy headliner is on the cusp of a major breakthrough.

A recognised name already, a high-profile win live on terrestrial television along with all the accompanying media attention could allow Donovan to, at last, kick on.

However, around this time last year, ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ had serious doubts around his continued participation in the sport.

Debilitating injuries to his finger and shoulder had stunted Donovan, limiting him to two fights in 2018 and, with little signs of progression on the horizon, costly surgery was a financial risk he wasn’t sure he wanted to take.

Explaining his injury woes to, Donovan described how “I was in agony and the surgeon couldn’t believe that I had a frozen shoulder as I’m so young. Late fourties and fifties is usually the bracket when you get it.”

“It was a freak injury and it’s one of those that is subtle, you try to put your seatbelt on and you can’t because of the pain, you have to use the other hand, and you’re thinking ‘how am I going to get in the ring and fight?'”

“Sometimes you’d think ‘what’s the point?'” Donovan admits before crediting his support system for keeping him in the game.

Donovan McAfee

“The time before I went to get surgery I was thinking ‘will I retire?’ because what was the point in me paying out all that money for surgery when I don’t even have a title lined up, nothing in the pipeline.”

“People around me, [fiancée] Laura, family, sponsors, they were saying that it would probably be better to be in a position where, if it did come around, I’d be able to take it rather than not be.”

Giving an update, Donovan outlined how “I feel good. Fitness-wise I’m good, I’m breaking some personal bests.”

“The shoulder is good, really, really good – I worked hard on it, lots of physio. People think you get surgery and you’re grand but no, there’s a strenuous rehab programme and I needed to be relentless and comprehensive.”

‘The journey’ is important for Donovan who caused a stir when he turned pro in 2016 after a period away from the sport.

The European and EU bronze medallist notes how “Here I am now, feeling like I’m overcoming adversity in my pro career after overcoming adversity in my life as well.”

“Everything is culminating into this time, this space, right here now in my life. I’ve the opportunity to be the main event on one of the biggest boxing cards in Ireland in a long time – that is brilliant, that is amazing.”

“I did not get here from my amateur pedigree – I haven’t boxed amateur since 2013, six years! – I was three years out of the game, I’m here because of a willingness, a perseverance, a never-say-die attitude.”

“I’m just a fighter who refuses to give up and I feel that there’s more out there for me to achieve, I’m not done yet.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

Kildare boxing is proudly supported by Liffey Crane Hire

Tickets for ‘Clash of the Titans’ cost €40 (general), €60 (ringside), and €100 (VIP) and are available from the boxers involved or Ticketmaster (CLICK HERE).


logo may

Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: