‘People say professional boxing is glamorous, that’s bulls**t’ – Eric Donovan, 37, has title within his grasp

Eric Donovan gets an opportunity to fulfill a lifetime ambition tonight in Belfast’s Europa Hotel when he fights French native Khalil El Hadri for the vacant European Union super-featherweight title live on TG4 (10pm).

ix years after making his professional debut at the age of 31 and seven months after suffering a third-round stoppage defeat to double Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez, the Louth-based, Athy-born boxer can earn his first continental title in the pro ranks. He harbored doubts about his future after that loss to the Cuban, but his Belfast-based promoter Mark Dunlop and trainer Paschal Collins still had faith in him.

After a comeback win in May to bring his pro record to 15-2, he jumped at the opportunity to fight for a European belt.

Thanks to a financial package put together by his sponsors – Bearing Point, Novo Technologies, the Auld Shebeen, Athy, Mind Drinks and Smart Text – they won the purse bid for the fight. “Although I would go anywhere in the world to fight for a continental title, it is so important that the fight is taking place in Ireland and live on TG4,” said Donovan.

“This is my chance to make my dream come true in front of my family, friends and fans. I’m so grateful to get a second chance at life and grateful that I’ve got a second chance in my boxing career as well.”

Nevertheless, this fight will cost him money. Now a much-sought speaker at corporate and wellness events, he is also a trainer and boxing coach, but he has had to turn down numerous engagements during the last ten weeks while in camp for tonight’s fight. I often hear people say that professional boxing is glamorous, that’s bulls**t. There is nothing glamorous about professional boxing. It is a tough, hard, hit. There is no money to make in it unless you are at world championship level. But for me, it has never been about money or fame. I just love boxing.”

Aged 27, El Hadri has a 13-1 professional record but has never fought outside his native France during his four-year professional career. “He’s no slouch. I have been in the ring with far greater fighters than he has. I boxed at world-class level as an amateur and I have a lot of experience. He may have the youth. I am not your typical 37-year-old, even though I have some really tough life experiences and came through a lot of adversity.

“I am still a very healthy, balanced, young, fresh 37-year-old because I live a good life and I work very hard. I’ve had a really tough but excellent training camp. I sparred in Birmingham against top-class seasoned professionals. I hit all the numbers in the track sessions.

“I couldn’t run before the Ramirez fight. I had a bad leg. I was on the bicycle, but running is a huge part of boxing training for the fitness and psychological benefits.

“I did a strength and conditioning program with Dr Seán Kilroy from Drogheda – he is brilliant. I just feel everything is coming together at the right time,” said Donovan, who believes a victory tonight will open up new career paths for him.

It will be the first time either boxer has been involved in a 12-round championship fight, but, with home advantage, Donovan ought to secure a victory on points.

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