Currently deep in a rigorous training camp that would make Rocky Balboa wince, Cork super bantamweight Colin O’Donovan is preparing for his professional boxing debut next month in Dublin.
O’Donovan, hailing from Douglas, will make his highly-anticipated pro bow at the National Stadium on Saturday, September 9. Here the wild man will box on the undercard of the ‘Celtic Clash 3’ show which is headlined by former top amateur and RTÉ pundit Eric Donovan who takes on Welsh champion Dai Davies in a BUI Celtic featherweight title fight.
There really was never any other option for O’Donovan. A fighter to his very core, it’s the only thing the Youghal-based man wants to do.
“I’ve been a fighter, born and raised, my whole life. Love fighting, love getting into it, except now I can do it legally and get paid,” he jokes. “Nothing better than getting paid for what you love to do.”
An outstanding amateur, O’Donovan became Togher Boxing Club’s first ever Irish champion back in 2014 when he won a Youth title. He would then finish runner-up at the 2015 Intermediates before placing third at the 2016 Elite Senior Championships where he only lost out to Kurt Walker – who this Summer won European bronze for Ireland and represents us at the World Championships in Germany at the end of the month.
However, the refined, tactical nature of the amateurs was never fully suited to O’Donovan’s ferocious qualities. He pines for a simpler sort of fighting and outlines how “I want to look back at my career and I want to watch war after war, I want it to be Barrera or Marquez type of stuff, that type of warrior style. If I have to move around, I’ll move around, but if someone wants to meet me in the middle and just chug away, that’s what I want.”
“I want to entertain the crowd but I want to entertain myself, I want to go home and watch the video and go ‘oh yeah that was a tear-up.’Something to be enjoyed, something that when I look back when I’m 40 or 50 and can think ‘that was unreal.’ I don’t want a dancing match.”
For his assault on the pro ranks, O’Donovan has linked up with Boxing Ireland Promotions – and manager Leonard Gunning admits to being initially taken aback by the ambitious Leesider, noting how “this lad came at me out of nowhere and I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first. But he’s turned out to be one of the most honest, dedicated and driven lads I’ve ever come across.”
Some have grown frustrated with boxing over the years, with boring fights, mismatches, and fighters avoiding opponents. Followers of O’Donovan will not face this problem.
The Cork man states, with genuine sincerity, that “I’d fight every second week, every third week, every month if possible. I want to travel the world fighting, I want to fight the best and I want to say I fought the best. I don’t want to just say ‘I was this’ or ‘I was that,’ I want to prove it, I want to show it on video. Win or lose, just go in there and smash them up.”
Indeed, such is his love of a scrap, O’Donovan recently found himself in unfamiliar surroundings – the cage! He recalls with smirk how “I did one MMA fight after the amateurs. I was training boxers at an MMA gym and I thought I may as well get in there. I’ve never used my legs, I’ve never used any other body part when I’m fighting, just my fists. I said I’d give it a bash. I threw one, maybe two kicks in the fight and it worked out well for me – but I wouldn’t like to be getting kicked back!”
While he will always be in entertaining scraps, it could however be case of ‘catch him while you can,’ as the ambitious young fighter has aspirations which extend beyond our fair isle. While he is not an arrogant man, there is a rugged intensity to O’Donovan who describes how “for me, I’m not even thinking domestically, I’m not thinking small time, I want to travel the world, I’m not just thinking Ireland. I’ll fight anybody in Ireland, but I want to go to England, I want to fight everybody there, I’ll go to Japan, I want to just go everywhere, fight everybody, and just enjoy life.”
Cork boxing is booming at the minute. Tommy McCarthy, Eamer Coughlan, Tommy Hyde, and Christina Desmond are all doing their thing in the amateurs. Spike O’Sullivan and Noely Murphy are drawing big crowds in America, Slovakian-born Vladimir Belujsky is also starting out, while Cuban Mike Perez fights for a world title next month in Latvia.
However, O’Donovan wants to prove himself to be the county’s premier boxing talent, the real Rebel.
“Everybody’s calling themselves the Rebel,” he laughs. “I’m the Cork man and I’m the Rebel, Perez is calling himself the Rebel, Vlad is calling himself the Rebel too, at the end of the day, I’m from Cork and I’m the real Rebel and I want to prove it too!”
And so, the rebellion begins on September 9, headlined by the Donovan-Davies title fight, the Celtic Clash 3 card also features Stephen McAfee, Martin Quinn, Regan Buckley, Carl McDonald, Chris Mullally, Michael Gallagher, Niall O’Connor, James Cahill, Gerard Whitehouse, Bernard Roe, John Joyce, Liam Gaynor, and Dylan McDonagh.
Tickets for the show cost €30 (Balcony), €40 (Gallery), €60 (Ringside), €100 (VIP Premium), and €15 (Under-15s gallery – must be bought alongside an adult ticket) and are available to buy by calling 0858387890 or online at Ticketmaster.ie.