That bit of nastiness needed to be an elite fighter shows in the eyes of one of the nicest guys in Irish boxing when he starts to discuss the man standing between him and EU super featherweight title success this coming Saturday night.
Eric Donovan [15(8)-2(2)] is as ever articulate, polite and even jovial as he discusses the fact he has been handed ‘career crowning’ moment that will play out live on terrestrial TV via TG4.
However, when 27-year-old Khalil El Hadri’s name is mentioned his demeanour changes. As it’s important to Pascal Collins trained fighter to come across respectfully, that change isn’t massively obvious and he avoids any invites to smack talk – but there is a switch nonetheless.
That eye of the tiger comes to the fore when he declares the Les Mureaux native, who was deemed a top French prospect when he turned over in 2018, is good but he isn’t Eric Donovan good.
Donovan, who in his role as RTE pundit is one of the most respected at breaking down a fight, has studied the French amateur and pro-national title winner and admits ‘EHK’ is a good operator. Just not good enough to beat him if he is on form.
“Looking at him he’s a solid opponent, he’s strong but he’s no Eric Donovan,” the 37-year-old tells Irish-boxing.com.
“He is not as smart as me, he’s not as strong as me and he hasn’t the same pedigree I have. The best Eric Donovan beats the best El Hadhri.”
Having superior talent doesn’t guarantee victory, the St Michael’s Athy graduate, who won five National Elite titles between 2004 and 2010, is well aware of that. In fact, he has first-hand experience of it after outboxing recent EBU title winner Zelfa Barrett for a large part of a Fight Camp bout, only to be stopped by the Manchester Matchroom fighter. Donovan is adamant he is ready to go to whatever lengths it takes to get his hand raised this time round.
“It’s all about me being ready to go whatever depts I have to go to be it emotionally, mentally or physically.
“I’ve been tested in all those areas throughout my life. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity and I never gave up on the dream that I would finally fight for a European title.”
The most recent Irish EU title winners Paulie Hyland and Andy Murray used those wins to secure EBU European title tilts – against Willie Casey and Gavin Rees respectively. A win for the European amateur medal winner could clear a similar pathway to full continental success and the Athy BC product would be well within his rights to target the winner of Juan Ferlix Gomez and Catalin Ionescu’s European title fight.
However, for now his gaze doesn’t peek past Saturday and the Europa Hotel hosted, MHD Promoted, TG4 broadcast title fight.
“The focus is on this fight and if I get the job done then we can sit down and talk about exciting prospects, exciting possibilities, homecomings, the options are endless. We can speculate all we want, we can think about what’s next and dream but right now the mission is to win on Saturday. And I have to win.”