Eric Donovan starts what could be the last year of his career next month.
Athy’s Irish featherweight champion is back in the ring for his twelfth professional fight and is adamant that 2020 will be a case of going big or going home. Donovan takes on tough Spaniard Cristian Montilla in the headline fight of the big ‘Celtic Clash 10’ bill at the Devenish Venue in Belfast on Saturday February 1st and is determined to go on a run that sees him step up to the next level.
The 34-year-old explained how “I want a world ranking title or a European title by the end of 2020, this fight will nudge me in that direction. It will also show another side of my boxing because I haven’t been tested yet and I hope Montilla will change that. He is a good fighter, he is a winner, not a survivor, he comes to win and he has a good boxing brain. My most challenging hurdle in this journey awaits and it must be cleared!”
A former Spanish champion, Canary Islander Montilla is Donovan’s most decorated foe to date and once held Danish European titlist Dennis Ceylan to a draw. ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ has done his homework and notes how “I think he has some quality, he certainly knows how to handle himself. He has a good KO ratio too and a decent right hand. His standout performance is the draw with Ceylan and, to be fair, wasn’t a bad one. I’ll obviously present a different challenge than Ceylan, I see the faults and I’ll exploit them. I’m happy with the opponent and looking forward to a great fight. I just want to keep raising the bar and testing myself against good fighters.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Donovan since sensationally returning from years in the boxing wilderness to turn pro in 2016. A five-time Elite champion and European and EU bronze medallist as an amateur, Donovan has had to slog and toil as a pro as he attempts to make it without big TV or promotional backing. There have been highlights, of course, such as winning the Irish title live on TG4 last March, but the veteran southpaw has already set the ultimatum that 2020 has to be his big breakthrough year or else he will step away from boxing.
The unbeaten Donovan outlines how “as I reflect on 2019, I have mixed feelings – the positive ones is that I became Irish champion on live TV and that will always be a special moment in our lives. The negative is that it could be also the last time I fight in the Republic of Ireland due to insurance costs which is a crying shame. But I went on the road twice as well and enjoyed those experiences.”
“After my last two fights which were in London and Glasgow, it’s nice to be back boxing on the island of Ireland. I put a lot of effort into every training camp and I can probably only do that three or four times a year, those ten-twelve week training camps and I need to make sure that, at the end of it, you’re not wasting time and that you’re progressing. I believe I am an elite level fighter and I want to be tested. We’re in a perfect position, now, to pounce. If there is an opportunity for me at super featherweight I’ll take that too. I will fight anyone from 57kg to 59kg. 2020 will be the year of the Lightning and I’m going to take and make some very bold and brave moves this coming year.”
‘Celtic Clash 10’ also features a clash between light welters Stephen Webb and Francy Luzoho as well as appearances from Kildare light welter Katelynn Phelan, Waterford super middle Rhys Moran, Dublin welter John Joyce, Cavan light middle Dominic Donegan, Sligo welter Aaron Gethins, West Belfast super middle Conor Doherty, Bray super bantam Sam Carroll, North Belfast light middle Owen O’Neill, Crumlin light middle Tony McGlynn, and Leixlip light welter Senan Kelly.
Stephen Webb feels like he has some making up to do on February 1st
The St James’s lightweight is back in the ring on the big ‘Celtic Clash 10’ bill at the Devenish Complex, Belfast and back at the scene of a painful defeat. Last May in Finaghy, in a big West Belfast derby, Webb was stopped in the second round by Divis destroyer Joe Fitzpatrick. ‘The Spider’ now wants to make amends and he goes straight into another domestic grudge match, taking on Dubliner Francy Luzoho over six rounds.
It’s not a typical comeback for Webb – who was initially due to return versus another Dubliner, Martin Quinn, last October before injury intervened. Most fighters would take a risk-free match-up in their first bout back after a loss but the John Breen-trained boxer does not want to go this route. Webb feels he owes those around him a big performance and a big win, so he actively sought domestic opposition.
Webb explains how “a routine fight was something I thought about for this one, but I owe everyone a big performance and there is no better way than doing it with an all-Irish win. I remember being melted after the [Fitzpatrick] fight and in the changing rooms and I asked Leonard and Dennis [Gunning and Morrison, management team] for another Irish opponent next. I just know in that last fight I didn’t do myself any favours and I want to prove to everyone exactly what I can do. This really is the best way to do it and against the perfect opponent.”
Luzoho was controversially beaten by Quinn last year and holds an identical record to Webb – one win and win loss – but the Belfast boxer is not taking his Coolock opponent for granted. That said, he expects to be a big winner next month.
“I genuinely see him as undefeated, he should have got the win against Quinn in my eyes and a lot of others, but I’ll hand him a proper defeat come February 1st. I don’t know much about Francy I didn’t see his debut but I did watch his fight against Quinn a few times as I was doing my homework on Quinn and really do think he was hard done by. But I’m planning out going into this fight and just enjoying the whole fight and boxing the best I can, no doubt an easy win though”
The Luzoho fighter represents a comeback in more than one way for Webb The 24-year-old was commended a few months back for opening up on his battles with gambling addiction. Webb explained how “for the last few years I’ve had a major gambling problem and anyone that really knew me would be able to tell you the positions I’ve put myself in because of it. From losing people who meant a lot to me, losing really good friends, people wiping their hands of me,#] and it even followed me into my professional boxing career having friends, coaches, and managers falling out with me over it all I’ve made a lot of big mistakes in my life and over the last few weeks I’ve been trying my best to put things straight and anyone that’s had problems with gambling will tell you it’s hard to admit you’ve a problem but I finally admitted that I have! It’s a horrible disease that’s ruined a lot of things in my life!”
A win over Luzoho won’t repair old wounds, but Webb believes it can help, outlining how “it’s no big secret that I’ve had personal problems- losing friends and a girlfriend due them not trusting me and me taking advantage of them, which I do regret. I’m trying to change myself as a person more everyday and hope, one day, people can see me for the real person I am. 2020 is my year, starting with a win and building bridges again.”
‘Celtic Clash 10’ will be headlined by Irish featherweight champion Eric Donovan and, alongside Webb v Luzoho, also features Antrim Town cruiserweight Conor Cooke, Larne super feather Kelvin McDonald, North Belfast light middle Owen O’Neill, West Belfast super middle Conor Doherty, Bray super bantam Sam Carroll, Dublin welter John Joyce, Cavan light middle Dominic Donegan, Sligo welter Aaron Gethins, Kildare light welter Katelynn Phelan, Waterford super middle Rhys Moran, and Crumlin duo Tony McGlynn and Senan Kelly.
Tickets cost £35 (unreserved) or £50 (ringside) and can be bought from all the boxers on the bill. Stephen Webb can be contacted via his social media, ringing 07923 239114 or visiting Universe.com.