Eric Donovan is hoping to take the home of British boxing by storm when he faces Nicaraguan knock-out specialist Moise Mojica in an ‘The Irish Invasion’ event in London’s York Hall on Saturday night.
Donovan is the headline act on a card that also features rising Irish stars Kevin Cronin (Kerry), Dominic Donegan (Cavan) and Rohan Date (Waterford).
The Kildare native, Donovan, was crowned the Irish featherweight champion after beating Dubliner Stephen McAfee in the National Stadium at the end of March. Unbeaten in 10 fights he has described this weekend’s London pit-stop as critical in his quest to become a European champion.
“It’s going to be a special night, a special atmosphere and I’m ready,” said Donovan. “All I wanted to do when I turned professional was to create memories and hopefully June 22 is going to be one of those nights.
“I’m looking forward to building my experience because I think I’m going to have to travel for big fights in the near future.
"It will be a good chance for me and my coaches to get that experience of travelling away as a team, doing the weight, staying away together as a team and going through all the processes as a professional boxer and a professional team.”
Soon to turn 34, Donovan is in a race to realise that dream. The decorated former St Michael’s Athy fighter enjoyed a distinguished amateur career, winning five Irish elite senior titles and picking up a bronze medal in the 2010 European Championships.
But he then drifted away from the sport only to be enticed back to the professional ranks by London-based Sligo man Leonard Gunning. Coached by Olympic silver medalist Kenny Egan, Donovan’s rapid rise has seen him become something of a poster boy for the sport in Ireland in recent months, and in particular, in the aftermath of his Irish featherweight title victory over Dublin’s Stephen McAfee.
“Eric isn’t in the humour for hanging around,” said manager Gunning.
“He wants to take the right steps, the necessary steps we feel he needs to make if he’s to get a European title shot and headlining a card in London is one of them. This Saturday will be a boxing occasion for Irish fight fans in the city — four Irish boxers stacking the card in the spiritual home of English boxing, that’s a statement of sorts.
“This is Eric’s first pro-fight outside of Ireland, but he has vast experience when it comes to boxing abroad through his time boxing for Ireland, so he’s relishing this opportunity. The York Hall is one of the great venues of boxing and with the heavy Irish presence on the card, we are hoping the Irish in the city will come out and get behind them.”
In an interesting side story to the fight, Donovan’s main sponsor — who helped make the fight possible — is the Athy-born Andrew Carey, who played ‘Andrew the barman’ in the Channel 4 cult classic TFI Friday.
The London-based publican and businessman had been following his county man’s career from afar and jumped at the chance of getting involved.
“Irish people in this town have a history of looking out for each other and this was a story I wanted to be a part of,” Carey told the Irish Examiner.