Eric Donovan [12(7)-0] claims there is no pathway for Irish fighters to forge a career in the Republic of Ireland at present and believes without intervention from the Boxing Union of Ireland boxing in the South is under threat.
The widely respected Kildare feather doesn’t lay sole blame at the governing body’s door, but does argue the people charged with the running of the sport in Ireland should be doing everything within their power to ensure there are regular shows outside Belfast.
Donovan’s former promoters, Boxing Ireland, have recently backed up public claims made previously by Jay Byrne and privately by others, that the BUI’s sanctioning fees are preventing regular boxing from taking place in Dublin.
Donovan notes the complaints and admits he has seen first hand the difficulties a the smaller promoters have with regard to putting on shows.
The 34-year-old, who is also heralded as a motivational speaker and boxing pundit, believes there is enough interest and talent in Ireland for at least six shows a year, but fears if change doesn’t come we could have none.
The St Michael’s Athy BC graduate understand the BUI do have to filter with regard to who is eligible to promoter and acknowledges that a massive increase in insurance and the lack of corporate love for boxing at present also plays a part.
However, he points out as the sole arbiters of pro fight nights outside of the North of Ireland those are issues they need to take into account and attempt to resolve.
When speaking to Irish-boxing.com Donovan called for the BUI to be more vocal with its members and to work openly with promoters.
‘Lilywhite Lightning’ outlined how “I think everyone involved needs to work together, there is only one governing body in Ireland and that’s the BUI, they control boxing.”
“So I would like to see them be a bit more vocal and transparent. Sit down and work with the promoters and managers to make boxing possible not impossible.”
“I know the BUI claims to favour the boxers, but the boxers need to box to make a career and be rewarded for all the hard work they put in. However, if there is no pathway for the boxer in his or her own country, then what chance has he or she got ?
“Small time promoters are sometimes operating at a loss, I know that from experience but so too are the boxers, I know that also from experience. Therefore, if there is no genuine attempt from the people in power to improve the situation, then I fear for the sport in this country,” he says before pointing out we have the raw materials for regular fighting in Ireland.
“There is so much potential, I wish it could be shown in a good light for all the good it can really do. There is potential for the south of Ireland to have a professional show every 6 to 8 weeks in this country.”
The scenario, which has now been compounded by the bad press surrounding the Anthony Joshua versus Tyson Fury fight and its links to Ireland, is particularly frustrating for Donovan.
At 34, he hasn’t time to wait for a massive revival and thus has teamed up with Mark Dunlop in a bid to exploit the Belfast managers links to Eddie Hearn and Sky Sports.
Donovan also got a taste for what it was like to be the main man on an Irish TV show having won the Irish title on well watched TG4 broadcast fight night.
At that point the talented and media friendly fighter was being heralded as an operator with Bernard Dunne type powers.
Many surmised he could lead the boxing revolution fans have been calling for since one Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym violently burst the Dunne bubble.
Donovan seems to think the same and believes he can put boxing back in a good light, but argues he hasn’t had the opportunities.
“I think I have the ability, skills, entertainment value and the following to actually showcase boxing and the potential for good that it can do,” he continues.
“I just needed backing but I felt let down by the lack of opportunities. I thought by winning the national title live on TG4 and giving my winning speech as Gaeilge, well a cúpla focal anyway, that it might open a whole knew pathway to greater success. Unfortunately, I haven’t boxing in the south since,” he laments.
Why didn’t he get the chance to spear head a big change in domestic boxing or the opportunity to fulfil his European title dream at home?
The cost of running a show is Donovan’s researched answer.
“It’s very frustrating, the last year of working with my former manager Leonard was mostly discussing the hurdles that lay in our way as opposed to more exciting discussions about real visions and plans,” he continues.
“From the discussions I’ve had with people around the country, it seems to be a cost thing. Unless you’re a big time promoter with massive financial backing it’s doesn’t seem feasible to work. Whether it’s, insurance, BUI fees, venues rejecting etc. I’m not 100% sure but definitely there are problems that are holding the sport and the boxers back.”
Insurance costs have increased dramatically over the last 12 months and the supply of venues is also limited.
However, promoters have said with BUI co-operation, they could navigate those hurdles.
Irish-boxing.com understands the BUI believe the aforementioned costs are the major issue rather than their own costs – which compare extremely unfavourably to those of the British Boxing Board of Control.
They would also point out their costs haven’t been increased in over a decade and the BBBofC take a cut from the fighters purse.
The financial problems surrounding some of the proposed and indeed completed shows of late is another thing needed to be taken into account.