The southpaw has been tipped for Olympic gold in Tokyo by the likes of Mick Conlan but Galway’s Kieran Molloy won the most anticipated of all the National Elite Championships finals at the weekend, claiming a unanimous decision win over Donovan in the 69kg decider.
It was a bout, and a result, which split opinion away from the five scoring judges. The TG4 broadcast team of Andy Lee, Kenneth Egan, and Darren O’Neill, all felt that Donovan had done enough, the entire press row sided with Molloy, while Irish boxing figures up and down the land have differing opinions.
19-year-old Donovan said that “I did not get the decision but me and the rest of the country knew I won the fight.”
“Andy Lee, Kenneth Egan, and Darren O’Neill live on TV said and knew I won but I’ll be back very soon and will make the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Scoring can be debated till the end of time but it seems likely now that, barring injury, EU bronze medallist and Sport Ireland-funded athlete Molloy will travel to represent Ireland at the European Games in Minsk in June. These are rumoured to be an Olympic qualifying event and, if not, will offer passage to the World Championships in Russia which certainly will be.
An interesting scenario has now emerged. Donovan’s Olympic hopes are dependent on Molloy not attaing Olympic qualification this year which would then give way to perhaps another showdown in the 2020 Seniors ahead of the final qualifiers for Tokyo.
It’s a lot of ifs and buts and Limerick’s most famous son believes Donovan may have his head turned by the pro game – especially if Molloy does achieve the qualifying standard.
The Athens Olympian and former middleweight champion of the world is a big fan of the OLOL teenager and said “to me, Paddy Donovan won the fight.”
“To me, this is not an overstatement, this is not an exaggeration, Paddy Donovan is probably the most exciting young prospects I’ve seen in this ring in a long, long time.”
“Just 19 years of age, so much skills, so slick, so much speed. He might have not have got the victory tonight but for us, he’s probably the biggest star to come out of Ireland for the future.
“You can just see the way he fights, how he boxes, he has that kind of thing that you can’t teach, that X-factor, he has natural talent,” he continued before addressing the pro situation.
Well-known in boxing circles – even spending time in the Wincobank Gym sparring with the likes of Kid Galahad – Lee believes that Donovan has become a wanted man, especially after Saturday’s result.
Lee revealed that “I’ve been contacted about him, there’s a lot of people in the professional world who know him, know his name. His name’s been ringing out for many years because he’s won everything underage.”
“I’ve already been contacted in the build-up to this fight about him by several guys in America and England about him. They want to know about him, they want to get my opinion about him, and I’ve been singing his praises.”
“He’ll be offered a lot of money to turn professional and, had he got the right decision tonight he might have stayed for the Olympics.”
The pro offers will, no doubt, come in.
For now, though, Donovan is focused on the European U22 Championships in Vladikavkaz, Russia, and is set to fly out on begin on Monday March 4th.
Despite being Irish U22 champion last year, Donovan did not fight at the 2018 tournament – instead touring America with the Elites where he scored a win over World #8 Quinton Randall in his first ever Senior fight.
His participation in this year’s championships is also in doubt with the talented teen undergoing plastic surgery on Saturday night to remedy a cut suffered in the third round of the Molloy fight.
Donovan now faces a race against time for the wound, which now holds 30 stitches internally and externally, to heal before the action begins in Russia on Friday March 8th
After this, who knows?
Donovan still holds the Olympic dream, specifically for Tokyo.
However, a pro offer could turn his head and if Molloy qualifies for the Olympics this could spell the end.
Of course, still only 19, the Paris Games in 2024 could fit in well with a pro career. This would give him more time to mature and improve which would then allow a fast-track approach be taken – not to mention that, with big international competitions, Olympics, and medals, his profile would sky-rocket in the next five years and give him more power in negotiations.
So young, Donovan needs to have a tight circle. The youngster is very close with his father Paddy Donovan who is becoming more and more involved in Irish teams and this bodes well.
Irish team captain Joe Ward and HPU chief Bernard Dunne also have a part to play. Indeed, some funding would not go amiss.
Then there is, if agreeable, Andy Lee himself. A Limerick legend and a man who knows more than most about the trials and tribulations of the pro game, Lee offers a calm voice in the bombastic pro scene.
Whatever he does, wherever he goes, it’s going to be exciting.