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30 Sept 2022

"I have been waiting for this for a very long time" - Eric Donovan speaks ahead of his European title opportunity later this month

Daragh Nolan looks ahead as Athy's Eric Donovan goes toe-to-toe with French boxer Khalil El Hadri in Belfast for the European Union Super Featherweight Championship crown

"I have been waiting for this for a very long time" - Eric Donovan speaks ahead of his European title opportunity later this month

Eric Donovan speaks to Daragh Nolan ahead of his European Union Super Featherweight Championship title fight against Khalil El Hadri on September 24

Eric Donovan has announced he will be fighting for the vacant European Union Super Featherweight Championship against Khalil El Hadri on September 24.

The Kildare boxer faces a Frenchman boasting an impressive 13-1 record in Belfast's Europa Hotel, the fight will also be shown live on TG4.

The Athy man came out of retirement in 2016 and in previous interviews with the Leinster Leader flagged that his dream was always to get to a European title fight.

“I am absolutely buzzing for this, I have been waiting for this for a very long time. I wasn’t convinced it would ever happen but I always hoped it would happen,” Eric said.

“The nature of professional boxing is that there are no guarantees, one fight can make or break you.”

Donovan fought Engel Gomez on May 14, scoring a unanimous decision win that moved him to number four in the EU rankings, the champion of which had recently vacated.

“Number two (El Hadri) and three in the rankings were next in line and the other guy couldn't do it so I was next in line at number four. My sponsorship team got together after that and won the bid to host the fight,” Eric explained.
“It’s brilliant that it’s in Ireland. I am so grateful to Bearing Point, Novo Technologies, Smart Text, The Auld Shebeen Athy and Mynd drinks. They came together to win the bid for us.”

As well as his own personal excitement on things being on home soil, Donovan is aware of El Hadri’s prior experience, with the Frenchman yet to fight outside either his native land or Monaco.

“He’s coming into the lion’s den now. It’s a small capacity but it’s almost sold-out and 99% of the fans will be in my corner. That will make a massive difference to have the full fan base behind me. Having my family and friends there, this one means a lot to me,” Eric said.

Now over half way into an eleven-week fight camp Eric and his coach Packie Collins have been examining his opponent on September 24. Although well aware of El Hadri’s quality, Donovan feels confident he has the tools to grab the European belt.
“He’s a respectable opponent, but I had a look at him. I see his flaws and I see the areas I can expose. My coach and I have been looking at it and we believe that we have the goods to trump him,” Eric described.

“It’s all about getting the performance right on the night and executing that. We’re weeks into camp at this stage and and I am starting to feel really good.”

As well as this fight being the realisation of a dream for Eric, it is also a second chance at this title. Or more accurately a first chance at the belt but his second opportunity.

“I was scheduled to fight Mario Alfano in Italy on May 26 last year for the belt and I injured my rib in training. That really knocked me for six, having to pull out on medical grounds. That haunted me for a while because I thought I had missed my chance,” Eric recalled.

“The belt has changed hands a couple of times since then and the task has even become more difficult now but I feel very lucky and grateful that I have got my chance even if it has gotten more difficult.”

Eric has made no secret of his past and now tours Ireland giving talks regarding mental health and his own personal struggles. But the Athy man battled through his own personal issues to turn professional in the sport that he loved at aged 31.

“It (the win) would mean everything. It would justify my return to the ring after three years after a semi-retirement. I turned professional just as I hit 31, most bow out of their careers at that age, not go into it,” Eric laughed.

“It would be remarkable to reach that goal, for me it would be the cherry on top. Even though I have the Irish title and the Celtic title, I just feel like this would be my crowning moment. It would help me to be content with my career.”
Earlier this year Donovan highlighted his desire to retire at the end of 2022, long before this fight was on the table. But he stopped well short of calling this title bout his last.

“I don't want to look at this fight as my final fight or a last hurrah. Saying that I am under no illusions that I am in the final chapters of my career. But it also opens the possibility of other things, such as a big homecoming in Kildare. These possibilities are out there, a bigger chance then and maybe a bigger belt,” Eric said.

“I am willing to talk about that but first things first, all eyes on September 24. That is where my focus is and any other potential discussion is just speculation. This next one is the mission.”

Having spoken to Eric prior to big fights and after retirement news it is an ever-changing range of subjects that can be discussed. The Kildare boxer is much more than who he is with his gloves on.

That can be seen in conversation with him on many subjects, including about his mental health advocacy. But even more chiefly when he glowingly discusses his wife Laura and their children.

“My wife Laura is an inspiration to me and she is due our baby two weeks after the fight. I would be lost without her. As well as her support she is even organising the tickets. I am so grateful for her and her support.”

Eric would also like to thank not just the sponsors that won this fight bid but also the A and A Pharmacy Athy and a Blackstone Motors Drogheda, commenting “they have all helped me so much.”

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