Donovan gets the chance he has craved as he lands big fight on Sky Sports

Ireland’s James Tennyson will also fight on one of Matchroom’s ‘Fight Camp’ shows, while there may be room yet for Jason Quigley to feature.

Eric Donovan.
Eric Donovan.

BUI IRISH FEATHERWEIGHT champion Eric Donovan has finally landed the opportunity that he has craved over the course of the frustrating past year in his late-bloomer professional career.

‘Lilywhite Lightning’ [12-0, 7KOs], will move up in weight to face Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Zelfa Barrett [23-1, 14KOs] on 14 August, live on Sky Sports from Eddie Hearn’s garden in Essex.

Barrett-Donovan will be the chief support to Felix Cash versus Jason Welborn on the third of Matchroom Boxing’s Fight Camp cards, which have been confirmed to take place on 1 August, 7 August, 14 August and 21 August — the last of which being a pay-per-view card headlined by Dillian Whyte versus Alexander Povetkin, and also including Katie Taylor whose opponent is yet to be confirmed.

It marks a significant chance for Donovan, a popular and prominent figure within Irish sport, to introduce himself to what is expected to be a huge UK audience, and also to Americans who will be able to watch the Fight Camp series on the streaming platform DAZN.

Athy native Donovan, a 34-year-old southpaw with enormous amateur pedigree, has been spotless in the paid ranks, and won the BUI Irish 126-pound title against Stephen McAfee live on TG4 in March of 2019.

He has fought and won three times since but against low-profile opponents, and his frustration at what he perceived to be a lack of tangible progress in his career led to his amicable departure from Boxing Ireland Promotions in March.

eric-donovan-consoles-stephen-mcafee-after-the-match Eric Donovan will face Manchester's Zelfa Barrett in Eddie Hearn's garden on 14 August. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The former European Championships bronze medallist subsequently inked with the Belfast-based Mark Dunlop, whose relationship with Hearn has proved fruitful for several fighters on his own managerial-promotional books. Donovan told The42 of his decision: “Even when I spoke to Mark, he was talking about the undercards of Katie Taylor’s fights and that’s where I want to be — I want to be on these stages. Because I could continue to top the bill on small-hall shows around Ireland and it’s great, but we’re not really attracting the big names over, you know what I mean? So it looks like I might have to go and search for them!”

Donovan has located a highly regarded opponent in Manchester’s Barrett, 26, who won and defended his Commonwealth 130-pound title last year and whose sole career defeat was via a majority decision to Ronnie Clark in 2018.

Victory for the Irish visitor outside Hearn’s Brentwood mansion would doubtless open doors to even bigger clashes with Britain’s best at 126 and/or 130.

There will be further Irish interest in Matchroom’s Fight Camp series not only in the shape of Donovan’s former amateur team-mate Katie Taylor, but in that of the concrete-fisted James Tennyson [26-3, 22KOs], who will defend his British title against Welshman Gavin Gwynne [12-1, 2KOs] on Week 1 (1 August).

The exciting Belfast man, a Dunlop stablemate of Donovan’s, went down to then-IBF champion Tevin Farmer in his sole world title challenge in 2018 but has since moved up from super-feather to lightweight (135) and scored four consecutive stoppage victories.

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james-tennyson-left-and-tevin-farmer James Tennyson throws a left uppercut at Tevin Farmer. Source: Emily Harney/INPHO

Widely regarded as the hardest puncher currently active in Irish boxing, the 26-year-old Tennyson — a former European and Commonwealth champion at 130 — eventually mowed down Craig Evans at the Echo Arena in Liverpool last November to add his first title a division above, and is plotting a route back towards world-title contention after his unsuccessful tilt two years ago.

Undisputed lightweight champion Taylor was expected to finally face her Puerto Rican nemesis Amanda Serrano in a rescheduled women’s superfight on Matchroom’s pay-per-view Fight Camp show on 22 August, but it would appear more dialogue will be required before Serrano can be lured into the ring.

Intriguingly, however, only four of five fights have been pencilled in for that same Whyte-Povetkin-headlined bill, meaning there is still room for Donegal middleweight Jason Quigley [18-1, 14KOs] to join his compatriot on Hearn’s flagship summer event. The Andy Lee-trained Ballybofey man has been touted by Hearn as potentially squaring off with Bolton’s Jack Cullen [18-2, 9KOs] but the fight is yet to be confirmed.

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