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Dublin: 17 °C Monday 3 August, 2020
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Irish champion Eric Donovan hits 10-0 milestone in first overseas pro fight

Lilywhite Lightning posted a third-round stoppage over game Nicaraguan Moises Mojica at the York Hall in London’s Bethnal Green.

File photo of Eric Donovan.
File photo of Eric Donovan.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Joe O’Neill reports from ringside at the York Hall

ERIC DONOVAN HIT the 10-0 milestone tonight in London as he gears up for the next stage of his career.

The Irish featherweight champion, fighting overseas professionally for the first time, posted a third-round stoppage over game Nicaraguan Moises Mojica at the York Hall in London’s Bethnal Green.

Having won his green belt back in March, live on TG4, with a fourth-round body-shot knockout of Stephen McAfee at the National Stadium, the Boxing Ireland Promotions crown jewel has been forced to crane his neck as he rapidly approaches his ‘ceiling’ at home.

A dominant domestic ruler, with no apparent challengers on the horizon, the soon-to-be 34-year-old has been peering overseas. Donovan has repeatedly stated that he holds no fear of the dreaded ‘away corner’ and fancies a lucrative fight with one of the big names in Britain on the sort of glossy cards that grab attention in the pub of a Saturday night or even in Spain where the European and European Union featherweight titles are both currently housed.

TG4 are still interested in the articulate ‘Lilywhite Lightning’, whose endearing story and infectious personality has found favour among fans and media types alike. Indeed, the dream is to bring either of the continental champions, Andoni Gago [European] or Carlos Ramos [European Union] to Ireland.

However, unlike in cinema adaptions, dreams rarely come true in this the dirtiest of sports and options need to be kept open, with tonight’s excursion being viewed as an opportunity for Donovan to test the waters overseas in anticipation of a bigger away day down the line.

Eric Donovan celebrates winning Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Travelling across the Irish Sea yesterday morning with coaches Kenneth Egan, of Beijing Olympic silver fame, and Joe Clifford whom he trains under at the MACHO Gym in Dublin, Donovan approached tonight’s ‘keep busy’ job as a crucial learning opportunity.

There were, ahem, minor logistical problems yesterday as they ventured into new territory, with Donovan missing his initial flight to London. All part of the experience and a distraction which was taken in stride.

While his timing may have been off at Dublin Airport, Donovan was clued in when it mattered. There was to be no coasting and Mojica was dominated with ruthless efficiency at the so-called spiritual home of British boxing

The Hellraiser Boxing bill – unofficially dubbed the Irish Invasion due to a number of fighters from these shores featuring – was a standard York Hall fare. In all there were 21 bouts listed, 14 which actually took place, and a largely rotating crowd with punters there for their ‘guy’ alone mixed with a small handful of British boxing hardcores and anoraks.

However, among all the prospects, the ticket-sellers whose popularity dictates progression, fighters quickly being shepherded in and out of the ring as the near-weekly pugilistic marathon chugs along, the class of Donovan was evident.

Effortlessly gliding across the canvas in the historic – if somewhat dingy – 1,000-seater hall, the Athy southpaw started sharply, slashing in counter left uppercuts to the body in the opener and staggering Mojica momentarily with a flurry upstairs.

Considering the nature of the show, the atmosphere had been muted to this point but Donovan’s arrival had heralded in something different. After being warmly received during the entrance, Donovan was then sung on by the vocal pocket of travelling fans and another salvo at the close of the first ramped things up again.

Boasting a record of nine wins, seven defeats, and two draws coming into the fight, Mojica was never expected to cause too many problems but the Spain-based Central American did not come to lie down and collect an easy paycheque. The visitor was aggressive but the gulf in class was evident, with Donovan able to throw with his opponent, safe in the knowledge that his crisper, cleaner shots would find a home before the winging windmills of Mojica.

Eric Donovan celebrates winning Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Happy to trade, Donovan made a big breakthrough in the final minute of the second, with a perfect right hook sending Mojica down in a flash. The Nicaraguan was up quickly – as was the atmosphere, with the rickety York Hall beginning to shake as the Eric Donovan-adaption of KC & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’ took over the entire crowd.

Going into the third, the relentless Donovan assault continued, the Irishman lashing in combination after combination. Mojica fought gamely but eventually fell with less than 20 seconds to go following a prolonged period of pressure and the bout was waved off. Donovan stood, hands aloft, soaking in the atmosphere he alone had created with a performance that will send ripples around the scene in Britain.

Afterwards Donovan would say that “I really enjoyed that, he was good, he was strong, and he was trying to set traps.”

“My amateur skills and fundamentals are always there but I had to dig in at times and show him what’s what. It’s something we’ve been working on, fighting in the pocket, being comfortable in the chaos.”

Manager Leonard Gunning, from Sligo but now living in London, is now targeting big titles and has high hopes for his star signing to progress to the mainstream stage. The fight boss outlined how “we want Eric to fight one of the big Spaniards or one of the big Brits. We’d like the European title by the end of the year and it’s a realistic and achievable goal.”

For Donovan, next up is a trip to the West End before he heads home with fiancée, and TG4 World Cup panellist, Laura Cusack, for a showing of Aladdin before he heads home to Ireland.

A Whole New World indeed.

Boxing Ireland Promotions, Donovan’s backers and the team behind the popular ‘Celtic Clash’ series, next plan to run a show in September and he will likely feature on this first.

However, another away day could certainty work – although when word of the Irishman’s technical prowess is relayed to the major players in British boxing, the phone may not be ringing off the hook.

Dreams may not come true often in boxing like they do in the movies but the cliché of one fight being able to transform a career still rings true – and that’s all Donovan needs now, just one chance, one phone call.

***

Earlier on in the card there was a big win for Kerry light heavyweight Kevin Cronin. The Milltown 23-year-old dropped and outpointed Latvian veteran Jevgenijs Andrejevs over four rounds to move to 2(1)-0.

Then, immediately after Donovan, Waterford welter Rohan Daté blasted out experienced Czech Jan Balog inside two rounds to put himself in the frame for a shot at the winner of next month’s vacant Irish title fight in Cork between Noely Murphy and Jake Hanney.

However, there was agony for Cavan light middleweight Dominic Donegan [1(0)-0] who saw his scheduled scrap with Kevin McCauley shelved after the Manchester man pulled out at extreme late notice with a twisted ankle.

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