Eric Donovan hopeful of Dublin TV breakthrough despite Eddie Hearn “cop-out”


Boxing in Dublin is dead, apparently.

That’s the feeling you get anyway if you listen to some of the talk around the capital.

Shows in the city are being cancelled with alarming regularity and, just last weekend, the biggest fight in Dublin, a rematch between Jono Carroll and Declan Geraghty, took place – in Belfast.

However, amidst all the doom and gloom, the good ship ‘Celtic Clash’ continues to sail along, with the Boxing Ireland and Tony Davit venture running its fifth show in less than fourteen months next weekend [Saturday July 14th], with an open media workout at the Colosseum Gym in Kylemore Park tomorrow at 1:00pm.

Granted, the shows are either ‘medium hall’ in the National Stadium or good old spit and sawdust ‘small hall’ at Good Counsel GAA Club in Drimnagh. Nevertheless, the series provides a consistent and regular output and platform for boxers ‘Down South’ which continues with Celtic Clash 6 at Good Counsel on Saturday July 14th..

Celtic Clash also has a star in Eric Donovan, the charismatic Kildare featherweight who currently holds the BUI Celtic title at 126lbs, and he believes that, despite the detractors, Dublin still has plenty to offer and that ‘big-time’ boxing is possible in the Fair City.

Since turning pro in the Summer of 2016, the RTÉ pundit has developed a rather large fanbase, topped three shows in Dublin, scored some good wins, and picked up a first title.

33 years of age later this month, Donovan [7(4)-0] wants to start breaking through to the next level.

One fight away from being eligible for the European rankings, the Athy southpaw has spoken confident of his ability to beat both the EU and the European champion – Spaniards Andoni Gago and Marc Vidal respectively.

Donovan returns from hand injury next weekend on the Drimnagh card and his fans will take up a large proportion of the D12 hall. However, he knows that if it were High Definition television cameras rather than mobile phones recording his fleet footwork and copious combinations that he has the ability and personality to become a genuine sporting star.

In a candid chat with Irish-Boxing.com, Donovan explained how “for me, what my problem is, even though I’m getting a good following for my fights, between two and three hundreds loyal fans coming to all my fights, a lot of my profile is based on social media, word of mouth, and the work in terms of talking to schools and businesses, telling them my life story.”

“That’s been generating my following but if I was to get a TV slot, that would bring me to a whole new level. All you need is one or two fights and people will take an interest in you, we just need the platform for that.”

“I think a lot of boxers work as hard, if not harder, as other professional athletes in mainstream sports. Boxers train as hard as them but they just don’t get the same recognition because boxing is boxing, it’s not a mainstream sport, it’s an individual sport, it’s a working class sport, it’s a shame.”

“I have to focus on staying strong and I do believe that, if I do get into a European title fight or into that position, I do believe I will be doing so on TV – in Ireland.”

Of course, some see the answer as being simple – Donovan’s old High Performance Unit sparring partner Katie Taylor. A major Sky Sports card in Dublin headlined by the Bray boxer would seem to have the potential to help drag boxing in city up with undercard slots and added coverage.

Taylor turned professional a few months after Donovan and the disastrous Rio Olympics, racing to the WBA and IBF titles in just nine fights. However, with two in America and seven in Britain, Taylor has never fought in Ireland as a pro – and it does not sound like she will in the foreseeable future.

Taylor is promoted by British behemoth Matchroom and managed by Bernard Peters – the Meath man behind the Bernard Dunne glory days – and a homecoming had been long been promised.

However, a Dublin date at the 3Arena was put back and put back until it recently was shelved indefinitely. The financial appeal of fighting in America and the financial cost of running a pro boxing event in Dublin have both been cited – while some suggest that there is a lack of appetite which has turned Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn off the idea.

Donovan is not convinced by this talk. For him, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

‘Lilywhite Lightning’ outlined his belief that “Brian Peters and Katie, if they had their own choice, if they had the power to choose Dublin and a home fight, I think they would. I think Eddie Hearn is leading that ship and I think it’s out of their control. Eddie is a very good promoter in how he addresses things and how he promotes things. I think it’s a bit of a cop-out saying that the appetite isn’t really there or that it’s not a viable option.”

“I think it’s a bit of a cop-out and it’s kind of sad in a way because we need somebody of the status or profile that Katie has. Her profile, compared to a lot of others, is through the stratosphere, really. If she did come back to do a fight, and I’m not even saying this for my own personal selfish reasons, I’d love to see her fight on her own soil. She deserves to, first of all, and the people of Ireland deserve to see it too. She’s boxing out of her skin at the moment, we all know that, but she hasn’t got another five, six, seven years in her, so I’d like to see it sometime over the next twelve months.”

Donovan is convinced such a show would be a major, potentially transcendent, event that could give a welcome injection to the sport in Ireland.

The European and EU bronze medallist described how “Katie Taylor is a global star and I’ve no problem in saying that if she came to Ireland to fight for a world title you’d get boxing fans, football fans, rugby fans, you’d get all fans. Not only all sporting fans, you’d get the general public, people that aren’t even sporting fans, coming to watch Katie Taylor with their family.”

“It is a cop-out, she would sell out the 3Arena especially if you put on even two or three decent undercard fights on to show. You’ve got the likes of Jason Quigley, Spike O’Sullivan, Niall Kennedy, Ray Moylette, myself. You’ve got a lot of guys who are capable of going on the undercard and fighting for Inter-Continental titles or domestic titles.”

Kildare boxing is proudly supported by Liffey Crane Hire

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

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie