Donovan’s Daring To Dream a Symptom of Irish Boxing’s Nightmare

Eric Donovan ticks every crossover box.

The Kildare boxer is a well-spoken, clean-cut, extremely talented fighter with a great backstory. The 36-year-old is media-friendly, charismatic, and most importantly your granny would love him!

Take into account he has an RTÉ profile from his punditry work and there is possibly no one more suited to being built from home and no current Irish fighter better positioned to bring big nights back to Dublin.

That’s why his defeat live on Sky Sports last Saturday was so frustrating to watch.

Donovan dared to dream and took on Robeisy Ramirez on a massive card in Scotland but the problem is fighting a double Olympic gold medal winner was the only dream left available for him.

A week after Craig McCarthy was stopped early on the undercard of Khan-Brook, the popular Athy stylist was stopped on the undercard of Taylor-Catterall. Both fighters rejoiced in the opportunity to vault up through the levels and enjoyed the platform but ultimately lost and in a fashion that left fans wondering whether they’ll ever reach that level again.

Such reactions are understandable and being involved on big TV nights is the stuff of dreams but such responses are also a damning indictment on the Irish boxing scene.

When fighting on Sky becomes the goal and the thing to be celebrated you are in trouble – but the truth is it’s one of the few avenues available for possible success.

Without a booming home scene, Irish fighters have to look abroad for work and those not aligned to big promoters have to take any work that comes their way.

They say desperation makes for bad cologne – but it’s a smell promoters love to sniff off away fighters. They know can set terms and conditions that suit their stars without resistance, thus making an uphill battle a cliff climb.

It’s a climb a lot of Irish fighters have had to try and make and unsuccessfully so over the years – but, at present, it seems more and more are lining up at the wall without safety gear, lambs to the proverbial slaughter.

It’s frustrating they are the kind of fights they can’t force on their terms or even fights they can’t incrementally build toward to give them a better chance of victory.

In Donovan’s case, it’s particularly annoying. The 36-year-old has made no secret about having European ambitions and he has shown enough to suggest he would be continental capable if built right. However, he was forced away from the more gradual approach in a now broken domestic scene and into the away corner on big promotions where he was stopped by Zelfa Barrett and Ramirez.

They were fights Donovan’s personality and a climate impacted by COVID, difficulties with sanctioning bodies, spiraling insurance costs, and gangland warfare meant he was never going to turn down. They were also experiences that saw him win plaudits due to their increased profile and experiences he will probably back on with pride.

However, looking at the fight in the grander scheme of things, it’s an example of the issues with not having a televised show in the Republic of Ireland since 2019 or a card from a major (read: financially powerful) outfit since 2015.

Here is a fighter with the profile, charisma, and talent that could have had a Bernard Dunne-esqe trip but he wasn’t given the vehicle on which to ride.

Instead, his two big fights came away from home one against Barrett up at super featherweight and the other against one of the greatest amateurs of all time.

More worrying now is that with limited fight nights in Ireland outside of Belfast, the Kildare southpaw, if he is to continue at all, will have to rebuild on small hall shows up North or abroad – and the cycle continues. And would it even be a ‘rebuild’? It would be one or two four-rounders versus journeymen before going into the away corner once again as a big underdog. Taking the chance, winning the plaudits, daring to dream, but most likely being knocked out.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 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: editoririshboxing@gmail.com