The Ballymena welterweight put himself just one win away from a medal with a gutsy and skilfull performance against tough and experienced Mongolian Tuvshinbat Byamba at Pailion 6 of the Riocentro.
Donnelly began sharply, attacking from the off, outlanding the Mongolian, but Byamba was landing some eye-catching big shots of his own. Benefiting from his quick start, the Ulster man shaded the opener on two cards.
A slower and messier second round saw the Asian – who was warned numerous times for rough-housing – have a very strong final 30 seconds, but the cards were again split in Donnelly’s favour.
Upon by two points on one card, level on the other two two, Donnelly needed a huge final round and he certainly delivered. Showing his boxing skills, the 27 year old fought on the back foot and seemed to get the better of the aggressive 2012 Olympian who caused a nasty looking spot of swelling over the Irishman’s left eye.
With the result hanging in the balance, Donnelly was deservedly awarded a split decision on the cards (30-27, 29-28, 28-29) to progress to the Last 8.
Donnelly now faces a huge fight on Saturday at 16:15 (Irish time) if he is to guarantee a bronze medal. In his quarter final he will face Moroccan World champion and WSB #1 Mohammed Rabii, who looked impressive today dispatching Kenyan Rayton Nduku Okwiri