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'All I want is a shot': Unbeaten Eric Donovan is ready to seize his chance at world level

After helping Jude Gallagher to a national title last night, Donovan steps into the ring himself in Glasgow this evening.

Winners: Donovan, left, with Irish champion Jude Gallagher and John Gallagher.
Winners: Donovan, left, with Irish champion Jude Gallagher and John Gallagher.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

VIA THE NATIONAL Stadium in Dublin, Irish featherweight champion Eric Donovan reaches Glasgow this evening for his latest professional bout on the road to a prized European title shot.

Donovan, the unbeaten southpaw from Athy, was ringside for the National Elite Championships last night. The 34-year-old, 10(6)-0 since joining the pro ranks, has become much more than a prizefighter since returning to the ring. A lead coaching role is the latest entry on Donovan’s extensive CV having agreed to guide Tyrone flyweight Jude Gallagher (Two Castles ABC) two months ago.

Eighteen-year-old Gallagher clinched his first Elite title, beating European Games bronze medallist Regan Buckley by unanimous decision. Gallagher and Donovan have clearly clicked since joining forces, although the logistics make little sense for the trainer this weekend.

“The only way I could make this work is if I got a weigh in on the day of my fight,” Donovan explains. “I got a special arrangement to get a two-pound extension to the weight.”

Why make yet another sacrifice in so demanding a sport? “I’m the type of person that if it’s possible to do both, why not? I like working with people who have ambition and desire to achieve at the very top. That lights my fire.”

Working with Gallagher serves as a refreshing counterpoint. Last month, Donovan’s scheduled bout in Belfast against Spaniard Cristian Montilla for the Celtic Nations title fell through, another show undone by the precarious nature of professional boxing.

Rerouting to Glasgow comes at a cost. Donovan was fully funded as a top level amateur but he pays his own way in the pro game, relying on ticket sales to cover expenses and maybe turn a profit. For this fight, his fans must fork out on flights and overnights. He cannot reach the bottom line without a dip into his own pocket.

“I have to sell 50 tickets just to break even,” Donovan outlines. “So far, I’ve probably sold 35. It’s going to cost me money.”

No wonder he sounds tired two days out from his clash with Nicaraguan Jose Aguilar. Food restrictions during fight week drain the regular verve from his voice but frustration has become more pronounced these past months.

“I’m getting a bit restless,” he admits. “I thought when I won the Irish title live on TG4 last March, we were at lift-off point and it just never happened. Insurance in Ireland is ridiculous as well. There’s been 13 or 14 MMA shows in the 3 Arena since the last boxing show that was there.”

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Donovan sold 350 tickets for that show and his success put him in the frame for a European title fight with Spain’s Carlos Ramos. A deal was struck for a match in Madrid but Ramos backed out.

“I feel I need somebody to get me a break,” says Donovan. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m in the best shape now physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I’d hate to think that it won’t work out. That would be awful.”

He can look beyond his immediate concerns at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza. Spain’s Christian Montilla has already been confirmed for 1 February in Belfast.

“In terms of ability and pedigree he’ll be the best I’ve faced,” Donovan states. “I’m so grateful to have a second chance after all I’ve been through.”

The charismatic Kildare man has battled addiction to reach this point. Healthy, his sporting wish has crystallised: “All I want is a shot.”

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