ENNIS boxer Paddy Donovan will have his first professional fight when he takes on Eduardo Valverde in Belfast on October 11.
Twenty-year-old Donovan signed with Top Rank in June and is seen as a major prospect in the pro ranks, having had a stellar amateur career.
He is trained by former WBO world middleweight champion Andy Lee, who said he is glad his fighter will begin his career on Irish soil. “It’s nice to be fighting at home, all Paddy’s family and friends are going to get the chance to see him start this journey which, if it goes to plan, will be long and successful. It’s always good to fight in Ireland.”
The fight is scheduled for six rounds and while prospects like Donovan normally start with handy victories, Andy said this challenge is a bit different.
“Valverde has two wins and two losses, so he’s got a 50% record. It’s a fight that we’re confident of Paddy winning but it’ll also be a little test because this guy is more experienced than him and has had some success. It’s only two really good guys that have beaten him. It’s unusual for any prospect to start with a six rounder, most guys start in a four rounder with a record like two wins and 20 losses, you know that kind of thing! It’s a mark of Paddy’s talent that they’re going to match him like this and as he progresses, so will the opponents.”
Donovan is set to fight again in Glasgow on November 16 and a further fight is planned for early 2020. He feels that Donovan is making a good start to life as a professional. “Paddy had a style that is suitable to the professionals, so there are only small adjustments that he had to make, but he is making them. It’ll be over a period of a year or two moreso than just three or four months but he’s making great progress, he’s in excellent shape, he’s improved on that aspect and become more athletic. He’s been sparring with professional boxers so he’s learning his trade, he’s doing really well.”
One of the big differences in stepping up to the professional game is dealing with the much longer fights. “It’s a longer duration but there are benefits to that as well. In the amateurs, you have such short fights, three rounds, you have to just win every moment, you can’t really take your time. In the professional game you can plan in the early rounds, set traps that will pay off in the later rounds or whatever it may be.”
Andy says another difference is that as a professional fighter, the focus Donovan requires is much greater than when he was a successful amateur. “This is a way of life now, this is his income. It’s not just a sport you do for fun any more, this is how you are going to feed your family and secure your future. Everything he does outside the ring has to help him inside the ring.”
As a coach, he feels he is making progress in tandem with his protégé. “I’m learning, I think I’m improving as he’s improving. I’m very lucky with Paddy, it’s not like starting off with a raw novice, he has done so much in the amateurs that it’s only small things that are easy to identify, he’s ahead of the game.”
The fight night in Belfast will be headlined by former Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes fighting Jay Harris. It will be streamed on the IFL TV YouTube channel and broadcast in the US on ESPN.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.