'This is my Everest' - Eric Donovan on epic EU title win 

'This is my Everest' - Eric Donovan on epic EU title win 

EMOTIONAL: Eric Donovan after defeating Khalil El Hadri in their EBU European Union super-featherweight bout at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kildare braveheart Eric Donovan accepts that at 37, everything after Saturday's dramatic EU super featherweight title win in Belfast is a bonus. 

"This is my Everest," the Athy man admitted after a sensational points victory over France's Khalil El Hadri, whose corner was clearly upset and frustrated by the unanimous verdict awarded to Donovan.

El Hadri - wh Donovan admitted "punches like a mule" - forced the Irish man into a standing count in Round 4 at the Europa Hotel, and appeared to land the more damaging punches throughout the contest. However, he couldn't quell the ceaseless determination of the Irish man, with the title fight reaching its zenith in a fantastic tenth round as both men stood toe to toe in a primal struggle for the knockout blow.

“Somebody once told me when you are going through hell, the best thing to do is keep going. I have to say El Hadri deserves all the credit for playing his part in this fight," Donovan said afterwards. “What an absolute warrior. He punches like an absolute mule. I have never been hit as hard, but I just kept telling myself suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

The French corner was clearly annoyed with the verdict which saw Donovan claim the win on all three scorecards. (115-113, 114-113, 115-112). The win advances Donovan to a pro record of 16-2. It was El Hadri's second loss of a twelve-fight pro career.

“In the last round I looked across the ring and saw my wife who is due in two weeks’ time and saw my kids, Jack and Troy. They saw me losing, they saw me getting knocked down, they saw me getting knocked out, but they never saw me quit. And I never, ever quit. I will always keep going until the very end.

Donovan told TG4: “I just knew if I kept going the tide might turn, and it did, I got a little bit of confidence in the later rounds. Sometimes that’s all you need – that spark. And Packie (Collins) said in the corner ‘you have it now, the chapter in this story is changing'.

“I knew I had the skill. He had the strength; he had the power and that ferociousness in each hand, but I had the footwork and the speed, and I knew if I kept digging and make him miss enough I would frustrate him enough to make him come forward and that’s what I did.

“I got off to a pretty good start but then he caught me with a big punch. I wasn’t really hurt but I was off balance and that is something I really need to work on with Packie. I knew I had the hand speed. I knew I had the courage, heart and guts to go deep into the later rounds. A lot of people know this, and I make no secret about it. I have been through a lot of adversity in my life."

It was Donovan's first time going twelve rounds as a pro, and he reflected afterwards how far he has come in the game since walking into Athy Boxing Club 30 years ago. 

"Boxing changed my life and that’s where I learned my stripes and I owe that club and the coach Dom O’Rourke everything,” he added.

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