“People say pro boxing is glamorous, it’s bulls**t” – Eric Donovan, 37, has title within reach

Eric Donovan has the opportunity to fulfill his life’s ambition tonight at the Europa Hotel in Belfast when he battles France’s Khalil El Hadri for the vacant European Union super featherweight title live on TG4 ( 10 p.m.).

Six years after making his professional debut at the age of 31 and seven months after suffering a third-round loss to two-time Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez, the Louth-born, Athy-born boxer can claim his first continental title in professional ranks. He harbored doubts about his future after that loss to the Cuban, but Belfast-based promoter Mark Dunlop and coach Paschal Collins still believed in him.

After a comeback win in May to take his professional record to 15-2, he jumped at the chance to challenge for a European belt.

Thanks to a financial package put in place by its sponsors – Bearing Point, Novo Technologies, the Auld Shebeen, Athy, Mind Drinks and Smart Text – they won the purse for the fight. “While I would go anywhere in the world to fight for a continental title, it’s so important that the fight takes place in Ireland and lives on TG4,” Donovan said.

“This is my chance to achieve my dream in front of my family, friends and fans. I’m so grateful to have a second chance in life and grateful to have a second chance in my boxing career as well.

Nevertheless, this fight will cost him money. Now a highly sought-after speaker at corporate and wellness events, he is also a trainer and boxing trainer, but has had to turn down numerous commitments over the past ten weeks while in camp for the fight. from this evening. I often hear people say that professional boxing is glamorous, that’s bullshit. There is nothing glamorous about professional boxing. It’s a tough, tough slog. There’s no money to be made unless you’re at world championship level. But for me, it was never about money or fame. I love boxing.”

The 27-year-old El Hadri has a professional record of 13-1 but has never fought outside his native France in his four-year professional career. “He is no exception. I’ve been in the ring with much bigger fighters than him. I fought at the world level as an amateur and I have a lot of experience. He may have youth. I am not a typical 37 year old male, although I have had some very difficult life experiences and been through a lot of adversity.

“I am still a very healthy, balanced, young and fresh 37 year old man because I live a good life and work very hard. I had a very difficult but excellent training camp. I fought in Birmingham against seasoned top professionals. I hit all the numbers in the track sessions.

“I couldn’t run before the Ramirez fight. I had pain in my leg. I was on a bike, but running is an important part of boxing training for the physical and psychological benefits.

“I’ve been on a strength and conditioning program with Dr Seán Kilroy from Drogheda – he’s brilliant. I just feel like everything is falling into place at the right time,” said Donovan, who believes a win tonight will open up new career paths for him.

This will be the first time either boxer has been involved in a 12-round title fight, but with home advantage Donovan should secure a victory on points.