The Dubliner was stopped with a perfect left uppercut to the body in the fourth round of his vacant Irish featherweight title fight versus Eric Donovan on Saturday night at the National Stadium.
Donovan was just too good and now will progress onto bigger things.
The ‘Clash of the Titans’ headliner, live on TG4, McAfee was visibly devastated by the defeat but, in the aftermath, he has received credit for, once again, stepping down in weight and stepping up to the plate for the fight.
Coming from a modest amateur background and a successful history in kickboxing, McAfee has been willing to take risky fights throughout his short career and finally provided Donovan with the domestic opposition he has been calling for.
The new Irish champion made sure to credit ‘Showtime’, explaining how “I’ve the utmost admiration for him, he was undefeated, he didn’t have the same amateur pedigree as me but he said ‘Eric Donovan, I’ll put it on against him’ and that’s what we need.”
“People want to see him again, I definitely want to see him again. He had real intent and he wanted to hurt me – and do you know what? He has real power.”
Thanks to @Inphosports for capturing this moment between two fighters. Our little chuckle here is about how I felt the wind of some of Stephen’s haymaker swings as they whisked by my head and how things could have been different had they landed. #boxing #respect pic.twitter.com/reh08sNeIh
— Eric Lilywhite Lightning Donovan (@eric_donovan60) April 1, 2019
McAfee is trained and managed by Jonathan Lewins but all seven of his bouts have played out on Boxing Ireland Promotions cards.
Promoter Stephen Sharpe promises that the Sallynoggin slugger will be given more opportunities, with plenty of potential domestic fights around.
Indeed, Sharpe feels that McAfee comes out of the stoppage defeat with his reputation enhanced.
The Dublin fight boss noted that “it’s easy to overlook Stephen Mcafee who actually stepped up to the plate and fought Eric and didn’t swerve him which has been the common theme when trying to match Eric.”
“Stephen showed some balls taking the fight, he also took it at featherweight which he hadn’t made before which is another example of his attitude and willingness to not baulk when opportunity knocks.”
“Stephen and Johnathan are not stupid, they knew the task they faced in Eric, but they always fancied their chances. I offered the fight to the lads and I spent two hours with Jonathan at my kitchen table going through the pros and cons of the fight. Boxing is always about risk/reward and I definitely think the risk has paid off for Stephen. ”
“Okay, he didn’t get the win but he done himself proud on Irish television instead of sitting at home with his feet up wishing he had the guts to take the fight. He showed he is willing and able to mix it with the best, he showed toughness, he has progressed so much over the last two years. ”
Indeed, analysing the contest, Sharpe feels ‘Donovan KO4 McAfee’ doesn’t tell the full story.
He described how “Stephen put in a really good performance against Eric who is an elite level fighter. Boxing is about luck and it seemed to desert Ste just as he seemed to be finding some success.”
“He really seemed to have established himself in round three and you could see from the look on his face when the bell rang that he was gaining more confidence. In some ways I think that success might have took him off his gameplan a bit.”
The former BUI Celtic super featherweight titleholder has plenty of big fights left in him, probably up in the busier 130lbs class. A clash with Allan Phelan, who had a win over Aiden Metcalfe on the undercard, would be a fan-friendly war while, with Boxing Ireland moving into the Belfast scene, Ciaran McVarnock is another.
Sharpe is looking forward to promoting more of the 27-year-old’s fights and outlined how “Stephen has been with us since the wheels start rolling on the Celtic Clash relaunch and we will continue to back Stephen 100%.”
“Ot won’t be long before he is back fighting for titles.”
“He is the type of fighter we love working with, no bullshit, he is a honest, hard working kid who will make a lot of noise over the next couple of years.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)