Paddy Donovan went back to where it all started and showed just how far he has come in the Ulster Hall tonight.
‘The Real Deal’ continued where he left off in a breakout 2023, starting 2024 in style courtesy of another knockout finish at the famous Belfast venue that hosted his debut in 2019.
It wasn’t a case of unlucky 13 for the 25-year-old southpaw as he accounted for Williams Andres Herrera within six.
The Andy Lee-trained welterweight was a heavy favourite going into the fight but the Argentine came to Belfast confident – and the former IBf Latino champion showed why.
The Argentine came to fight, took some big shots flush, and continued to look to brawl. Indeed, he asked more questions of Donovan than any pro to date.
However, just when it looked like the aggressive South American may test the fitness and grit of the star in the making, Donovan pulled out favourite shot to win the fight.
The Matchroom prospect, who showed he possesses as much power as he does panache, landed a liver shot that started a chain of events to lead to a fourth successive stoppage and his 10 since turning over.
The victory sees an exciting period for Donovan continue. A slot on the Katie Taylor Croke Park undercard, if the stadium fight materializes, is a certainty, while there is talk of a Limerick homecoming and even a massive summer clash with Lewis Crocker was muted by Matchroom CEO Frank Smith on Friday.
Donovan had a look behind a southpaw jab in the first. Constantly touching looking for openings, Herrera did taste the power when the Limerick man went downstairs and was tentative presumably aware he was being set up for something vicious.
Having computed what his opponent has in the first. the Andy Lee-trained fighter closed the distance in the second. It forced the Argentine to come out of his shell, which in turn allowed ‘The Real Deal’ to pick beautifully timed counters. The uppercut to the mid-rift was forcing the away fighter to grimace, while a left-hand right on the bell had the Cruz del Eje complaining.
The third saw Herrera adopt a new level of aggression but there was a sense that suited Donovan and he looked like he began to toy with Argentine. Not that it was much fun for the South American, he was on the end of perfectly picked thudding shots as Donovan began to show just why so many are so high on him.
It began to become clear why Herrera hasn’t been stopped in his two defeats as the rounds progressed. He ate backhands down the pipe and sharp right hooks to the temple as he pushed forward over the next two.
His bravery could have earned him Belfast respect but the fact he began to complain about being hit around the back of the head angered the most knowledgeable crowd in boxing.
One uppercut in the fifth boosted the away fighter’s belief and he moved toward the second half of the fight giving it a real go, making it suitably scrapy on occasion.
A real fight broke out in the sixth as Herrara almost happily took three big chopping left hands to apply pressure and throw. The Munster man’s nose was cut by this stage and for the first time in his career, he had dig deep.
He did just that and he closed an extremely entertaining round rocking his opponent’s head back. One backhand on the left in particular induced a groan from the very engaged crowd.
Under some pressure and faced with adversity for the first time in his career, Donovan brought out his go-to shot to change and settle the fight in the sixth.
The long looping left to the body he used to stop 9 of 10 opponents en route to a Boy1 Irish title landed clean and prompted the South American to head south delayed reaction style.
One of the best finishers in Irish boxing was never going to let him off the hook, dropped him again soon after, and closed the show forcing the referee to step 1:44 into the session.
Donovan is now the holder of a 13-0 record his opponent slips to 15-3.