Eric Donovan is approaching the big leagues and is looking to set up a breakthrough 2018. The Athy featherweight wants to be the man to bring RTÉ back to pro boxing in Ireland, and believes he knows the title fight which can do it.
The BUI Celtic champion defends his belt for the first time tomorrow night in Dublin at the National Stadium in the headline fight of the ‘Celtic Clash 4’ card run by Boxing Ireland Promotions and Tony Davitt Promotions. Kildare southpaw Donovan [5(3)-0] takes on tough Spaniard Juancho Gonzalez [11(4)-6(3)], who hails from Gijon in the Celtic Asturias region in the country, atop a packed bill which also features a tasty BUI Celtic welterweight scrap between Dubliners Jay Byrne and Crank Whitehouse.
Athy’s Donovan entered into the pro ranks last year following some time away from the sport. A five-time Irish Elite Senior champion and a European and EU bronze medalist, his backing may not match others of the same pedigree. Managed by Sligo’s Leonard Gunning, Donovan is building organically, somewhat under the radar and away from the arena shows and the television cameras.
It’s a journey most ‘regular’ professional fighters take: selling tickets personally while holding down employment to pay the bills which the smaller fight cards unfortunately can’t. This is all okay for 31-year-old Donovan, however, considering his rapid rise and the goals he holds, he is hoping something clicks in the new year.
“It’s a full-time job,” he admits. “I’m my own salesperson! It’s good, but it can be time-consuming. I’ve a busy life, with work, with training, with trying to be a father, boyfriend, the house, everything, it’s just about getting time. Literally from morning to night, there’s so much packed in. I’m a fitness coach, I’m doing a class, then I’m doing a training session, then picking up the kids, dropping back the kids, dropping the young lad to football training, all that type of stuff.”
“But that’s life! The only thing is that I’m a professional boxer at a very high level. I would love to get into the position someday where maybe I can pull back a little bit, maybe with work or something. To really get the required amount of rest. It’s kinda cool though, other professional athletes don’t do that, can you imagine other professional athletes going to meet up with people for tickets?”
The word is spreading, though, with Donovan’s performances and his massively well-received media work attracting attention. For ‘Celtic Clash 4’, he will bring his biggest crowd yet.
“There’s a bus coming from Edenderry, there’s a bus coming from Derrinturn, there’s a bus coming from Carlow, there’s a bus from Drogheda, and a bus from Naas and Ballymore Eustace – and I haven’t mentioned Athy there, I hope there’s one going for Athy, if there’s not a bus going from Athy there’ll be murder!” he joked.
This is all well and good however, to properly make that breakthrough, Donovan needs television. National broadcaster RTÉ have not aired professional boxing since 2011, and there is a growing feeling that Donovan can be the man to bring the cameras back. Nevertheless, there’s a long way still to go, something ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ acknowledges.
“My view is, what can they cover?” he asked rhetorically. “Who’s boxing for major titles down south? There’s nobody really. Katie Taylor’s tied up with Sky Sports, you’ve got the boys who are tied up with BT, then you’ve other guys around the south like Spike O’Sullivan but he has to go to America.”
“We have to come up with the proposition, I suppose – ‘here’s the fight, Eric Donovan is going to box for a European title’ – then they might be interested. I hope that’s when I get into a position for a European title – and that is my goal, I dream about it, I believe it, and I visualise it all the time.”
The European Boxing Union title could well be the golden ticket. The respected blue belt was the title which former RTÉ star Bernard Dunne initially targeted, and Donovan has his eyes on the prize – and the competition.
The skillful southpaw, who is now being trained by former world champion Andy Lee, outlined how “I looked at the field and I think that I can get in with any of them and compete and, on my day, I can win. I don’t get officially ranked in the European rankings until I have eight fights, so after eight fights which I hope will be around next April, I would go into the rankings somewhere around tenth – I don’t know, it depends on how well I look in them three fights.”
“If I get myself into that mandatory position, or if I’m in the Top 10 I can fight for it, and hopefully someone will come behind me and support me and hopefully get that fight to Ireland, get RTÉ back on. It would be nice, and it would be fitting considering I did some work for them, I’m passionate about boxing and that would be a nice ‘story’ – whether it happens or not, we’ll see!”
While he won’t be eligible for a little while longer, Donovan has already sized up his potential future rival. Like Gonzalez, current champion Marc Vidal also hails from Spain – indeed they fought each other for their national title last year, with Vidal triumphing by ninth round stoppage following a competitive contest.
Donovan feels he can beat Vidal, even now, and noted how “I’m ready now for a European title. If it was offered to me now, I would take it, hypothetically speaking. Who’s the champ? Marc Vidal – I’m a complete better boxer, I’m faster, more intelligent, better footwork. He might be stronger in the sense of physical strength, he’s durable, he’s conditioned, he’ll fight all day. But you design your training camp to nullify that. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, what we’d do is try nullify his strengths as good as we can.”
Photo Credit: Laszlo Geczo Photography