After relocating to Kazakhstan and helping the Astana Arlans to win the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Team Finals, Ireland’s 2010 European Bronze Medalist Eric Donovan has had a busy year. We catch up with him for a chat about his debut WSB season and how he had planned to box Lomachenko had they met in the WSB Team Finals.
Which was your favourite bout personally this season (and why)?
Well I won one and lost two so I would have to say the bout that I won(laughs). But actually I think that was also my favourite because there was a lot of anticipation around the bout and it was my WSB debut against a very experienced and seasoned opponent. The home crowd was absolutely fantastic so that was my standout fight and performance I would say.
Who was the best boxer in the WSB Team Finals?
I think it was a very evenly matched, epic finals and it was fun to be a part of it. In terms of outstanding boxers though I don’t think you can look past Lomachenko. He is in a league of his own; possibly the best Olympic boxer we have ever seen. He is great against any type of opponent, be they tall, short, fast or heavy hitters.
What makes him so good technically and what should people be looking out for when they watch him?
If you watch him you’ll notice that he doesn’t throw many punches in the first minute or so as he takes time to understand his opponent’s game plan. Watch how he makes it look so effortless when he is working and how when he is in the corner he is barely breathing hard. That’s because not only is he in great shape but he also has mastered his set of skills. He has put in so much hard work that he is relaxed when he is boxing whilst being alert to everything. He always takes his opponent’s away from their strengths. We can confidently say that he is one of the best boxers to ever grace the canvas.
What would a boxer need to do to beat him – or at least how should they approach the task?
Actually I was expecting to have to fight him during the finals. I did a lot of video analysis on him and no matter how much you looked, it was very hard to find a weakness because he does a job on everyone (laughs). The only thing I noticed is that fighters give him too much respect, and rightly so to an extent, but you have to be willing to get in there and box the guy. He only has two arms and two legs like the rest of us and you have to have 100% belief that you can win. I think one key is to punch when he is punching. A lot of guys waste punches on him when his defence is so good. I think you just have to wait till he starts his attack then go yourself. It’s a daunting task but I was up for it.
What was the biggest surprise result of the finals?
Our Bantamweights were very good. Bagdad [Alimbekov] performed fantastically in the sudden death bout. We all backed him to do it of course but everything was on his shoulders and we didn’t think he would do it as coolly as he did. [Mihai]Nistor was probably the one though. He was my roommate and he’s a really nice guy. He did well because he wasn’t expecting to fight at all. It was supposed to be [Filip] Hrgovic, but when he pulled out Nistor stepped up to fight the Olympic Champion Oleksandr Usyk with just two days’ notice. He exposed Usyk in the second and took a round off him. I don’t know if anyone else has done that this season. He’ll go on now to compete in the Europeans and I’m sure he will do well. I just hope he isn’t too tired.
That is a good point. With commitments such as National Championships and World Championships to worry about in addition to the WSB season, how do you plan your training program?
It’s very difficult, particularly for the Nationals. We have a clause in our WSB contract with the Arlans that they have to let us go for three weeks to compete in the Nationals, as in Ireland we box the Nationals over three weekends. Personally I would rather see them change it so it was boxed over a week like the Europeans because anything can happen to you in three weekends, you could even get sick for instance; certainly it’s very difficult to peak for like that anyway. The Nationals are very important because they determine who will go to the Europeans and the Worlds; on the other hand it’s a shame that I missed some of the WSB season which would have been good experience for me.
What is your next event?
Actually I just got back from Astana so I’m taking this week and another week off. Then I’m next boxing for my old club St Michael’s against an Italian squad in July. St Michael’s is one of the most successful squads in Ireland. Then I’m preparing for a box-off in July or August to decide who will represent Ireland in the World Championships. I’ve learnt so much in Kazakhstan that I’ve been taking notes, not just for myself, but also for my future career as a coach. I’ve also started learning Russian so I’m staying busy.
What do you like to do when you are not boxing?
I have to admit that I’m almost addicted to golf. I could never understand why people were interested in the sport but then I went to play and I started hitting balls straight and now I’m hooked!
I also have two boys and I like to spend as much time with them as possible. My eldest one Jack has his Holy Communion on Saturday so I’m looking forward to that.
Follow Eric Donovan on Twitter! @eric_donovan60 to keep up to date with his latest news.