Paddy Donovan, OLOL, will be looking for another national title this weekend
This weekend Paddy Donovan, fighting out of Our Lady of Lourdes club in Limerick, will be looking to add a 14th national boxing title to his medal haul. The man with a bright inside the ring took some time out of his hectic schedule to chat to us this week ahead of the National Elite finals in Dublin starting on Friday February 8.
What’s the plan for 2019?
The plan is now, we have the elites championship coming up now this week. Winning them means I have the chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2020, my whole career has been built around the next moment coming up, so I’m looking forward to that
Can you lose that fight and still go to Japan in 2020?
Still by losing, I’ll still be part of the team, we’ll be having training camps and sparring, if I’m winning the spars and stuff, i’ll be selected this way. You know with fights, you never know what could happen, the judges could go against you, you might have an off day, and you only have one tournament to be bang on, in every fight, it's a massive tournament. It's the biggest tournament of them all
How many fights do you have in this?
It depends, you can have anything up to 5 fights, the lowest you’re going to have is about 3 or 4 fights because everyone will enter, everyone will want to win, everyone's trying to get to the Tokyo Olympics. Probably 4 to 5 fights
How do you find fighting at the 69kg weight?
I’m always on the weight, dead on. I moved up last year, I’m always around the weight. I’m still not as big as I’d like to be for the weight class. The weight is no problem, that’s the only good thing
Do you find a difficult mix between hitting 69kg and still having the agility to move that size around the ring? Some people might not realise an extra 2/3 kilos around the ring is massive.
For me, I like fighting fellas that are heavier, because they’re slower and when they’re above me in weight, even in training camp and sparring, I love when they’re a bit heavier and stronger, because they’re slower, looking for big punches and I can take advantage of that with speed. That's where I feel comfortable at, where as when i move down the weight, I feel like the slow guy, these little light fellas moving around the place, I find an advantage for me being smaller
What would you say your strengths in the ring are, if someone were to say “I’m fighting Paddy at the weekend, what do they have to look out for?
Mostly I would say my left hand. My left hand is a big weapon for me. I’ve had a lot of stoppages, 50% of my fights, I give someone a counter and I stop them. I give them a body shot or left hand to the head or left hand to the body. People need to be wary of them two shots really and they always try to keep away from my left hand so they’d be moving onto my right side so that is what I've been working on, my right side.
Catching them with my right, instead of always depending on my left, working on my jab and my hook. By doing that they make some mistakes and they could be moving back onto my good hand where I can land them with shots again. I can take advantage of that, I always adapt to the styles, if a fella is coming at you full force, you have guys moving full speed, you have other little guys boxing as well but you always have to adapt to everyone's style. You only have 3 rounds so you have to do it fast, it has to be done rapidly.
Do you rely on your own instinct there or do you rely on the coach to figure out an opponent?
Of course like, my Dad is my coach and I’ve often come back to my corner not feeling like the fights going the way I want it to. They would say, look you’re depending off this shot, work off this shot and then I'll go out and I'll start doing these things and they’ll start to work, you know you have to adapt. You haven't got a lot of time you know, if its professional it’s different, because you have 4, 5, 6 rounds to get used to this guy and probably take him out later. But in the amateurs it is properly from bell one, straight away winning the fight and continue winning, it is hard when you’re down one round because you have to equal and then win one big last round, most fights are won in the first round as well so that’s a big thing. First round is very important
In a few years time someone might say “oh he fights like Paddy Donovan”, but who does Paddy Donovan fight like now, that people would know?
Right now, I don’t like to compare myself to anyone. I like to take bits from everyone to kind of put into my style
So who would you pick from?
Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, fighters like these. These are who I like, fighters with fast combinations, people that can box and don’t like to get hit, but also people who can rough it up if they want. I take bits off of everyone. I don’t really want me to be like someone else if you know what I mean, I kinda want my style to be my style, take that little bit from everyone, I suppose everyone in boxing probably does that, every boxer takes a bit from everyone
Your father Martin is involved in boxing and has fought for years, is that the reason you got involved?
My Dad has been a boxer all his life, but he’s never won a national, he was beaten in five finals, no family member has ever won it and I came up in the gym when he was training. I was 3 or 4 years old coming up along, boxing and when i came up along at 9 and 10 years old, all i wanted to do was win the national. To be the first in the family to win it and when I did I won the first, second, third and they just kept following and following and they just kept coming year after year.
We have seen fighters like Katie Taylor also have their Dad as their coach, how does that work?
There are days where you just don’t want to go training. There would d be a couple of days where you just don’t want to do it but he’d be there and he’d be saying “you have to do it”
It gets into your head and sometimes it's good to have someone to push you. He’s always pushing, pushing, pushing, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be boxing to be honest, we just wouldn’t be.
He’s always pushing us right to the limits, the track, the training, everything. You know? And then we always know when we fight, that I’m in shape, the hills we’ve ran in Clare, the training we’ve done in Limerick, I know that I’m as sure as i could be. That’s the good thing that I have
Have you seen the change in fighters you have trained with. When did you realise you were better than them?
In our gym, there’s always been good boxers and I usually spar the older boys so you’d be getting beat up when you’re younger and you’d be getting better and you’d be getting the better hand on these guys and through the years these guys fade away.
Then there’s new boxers coming from different clubs and there's new guys coming up sparring, the club has changed so much for me, boxers that have started out with me, there’s none of them there, me and my brother are the only ones left.
Is there any of fellas going, 'I’m not getting in with Paddy?
I have a load of fights lately where there are lads pulling out. They just know that right now, I'm that bit too good for them. They’re that little bit short, sot hey just skip this tournament, pull out of it, hope for the next tournament I’m not in their way,
Have you written down your goals like you said at the start, Olympics is one of them?
That’s the goal, that’s everyone’s goal right now. It is so close. It is 2019, you have one year, you have the elites, you have so many chances afterwards to qualify, which can be done its been done
But you can qualify at home, as opposed to going off and having to go somewhere else to qualify?
The biggest one for me is winning the elites, because if I win the elites, I feel like the qualifiers then after that won’t be much problem. The elites is very good, there is some very top guys in my way, some guys that I’ve known all my life that are very good
Who is your biggest opposition in the elites next week?
There is three guys really. There is the Champion from last year Ciaran Molloy. The champion from 4 years previous Dean Walsh and finally there’s the champion at the weight, a guy from the north, Aidan Walsh.
Dean Walsh has been 4 times champion of the elites so who knows, he is experienced. Fresh king coming up against an old king, he has the experience he’s been there.
Ciaran Molloy, he is last years champion, he is the champion from last year so he is another big name.
There is another lad up the north who’s another good lad, he’s very tricky, he’s another tough guy, but I feel like I can beat anyone, on my day if I’m boxing well I can beat any one of them
Tell me about the high performance set up so, is that something you have experienced?
If I win these elites, I should get some exposure up there. They train Tuesday to Friday every week and the rest of the days you can do your own thing. You have training camps and then you have international tournaments too.
And do you find them beneficial?
Very beneficial. When you want to be making your name, you want people to be hearing you across seas, that's where you want to be winning stuff, bringing your stuff home. Bringing your medals back to Ireland. There's no use whining if you’re doing nothing for your country. I know you do it for your club but you need to be doing it for your country too.
When you go abroad there’s a lot of people expecting you to bring home medals and that’s what I love to do. People love that, that’s why they like to see you winning
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My wife Ellie. (He laughs) She makes sure I am out and ready for training.
Do you find it the training tough?
Very tough, but do you know it depends what shape my bodies in, do you know what I mean? If I’ve been training a while, training kinda gets easier. The body gets used to the wear and tear. But do you know if I take a couple of weeks off and then i go back training? Then I find it very difficult. The body would be in bits for a couple of weeks.
How many’s in the family?
There’s the brother Ed, the little boy MJ and 7 girls. There’s 10 of us
So, is that a good support network?
Yeah, because my wife comes from a boxing family, her dad’s a coach in Olympic in Galway. She has a brother who has won 5 or 6 nationals. He is only a young fella, but he is very good. Ellie has been around boxing all her life, the same way I was getting brought up, her brothers getting brought up the same way. It’s a boxing family, when she was getting married to me, she knows what I have to do and what I am doing. So that’s the good thing, she knows how to make good meals. She does everything right, that’s the good thing
Obviously home life is important. It makes you a better fighter. So lets you just say you win next week and the Olympic dream is happening. How do you envisage the time between now and Japan going, as you say is it Tuesday-Fridays in the elite and just preparing for that?
It’s just literally boxing, train, train, train. Just constantly training, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to be at people were often telling me coming up “Oh you’ll make the Olympics, you’re good enough” and it never really set in that you’re gonna make any Olympics or anything like that but now when it’s so close, a year off, I’m on a good path, I’ve done so well so far I can go that extra step, it’s tough but I can do it. If I get past the elites I know I can do it.
What's a normal week like, a training week?
Get up about 9, have a light breakfast, maybe go for a run, maybe half an hour. Sometimes we run sometimes we do Strength and conditioning. Come home then and be with the family. Then I’d go up to Limerick in the evening with my father, we train in there and then we go home, just a light bit of food and back to bed.
How hard is the training there? An hour, 2 hours?
If we are not in our own gym, we’d be in the UL, I’d be out on the track, my Dad would be doing the pads and I’d be doing the the bag. We’d always mix it up.
So is it just cardio, combo, cardio?
We always mix it up. After doing the boxing session, we do a little bit of strength and conditioning, We always try to mix it up, we don't try to make training like its running here, its boxing here, whenever I train with my Dad it’s always something different. It’s not always the same thing
Which makes it fresh?
Yeah makes it fresh, ‘cause I don’t always kinda know what is coming.
And how many times a week do you do that?
Right now I’m doing it every day, every single day.
Preparing for this week?
Training every day.
What are you eating?
In the morning, just some scrambled egg with some toast and maybe some tea, not much. Then after strength and conditioning I come home and I have more salad or something and stuff like that. Then I have my dinner in the evening, I have 3 good meals a day. Eating is not really a problem.
You don’t have to worry about that?
Yeah with the amount of training I’m doing, I need to be eating a lot or the weight will be falling down with the constant training. The good thing is right now my weight is good. So I’m happy with that, weight is a big thing for boxing. I’ve spent half a year for the last ten years making weight for a tournament.
Going 2,3,4 kilos down, you’re constantly training, skipping meals and training just to make weight. This year, the weight is good, it’s the only thing I have going good right now.
What are you like before a fight?
I’m just completely calm
Were you always like that?
No. I’ve often boxed big names and felt no pressure because you know he is a big lad, a big name. I don’t like boxing lads that I would be a hot favourite to beat. You start to thinkg, what if this lad beats me?
What a set back that would be. Stuff like this, but for the last couple of years, the butterflies don’t really get to me. I feel very confident because when I get into the stadium I have everyone looking at me and they really look up to me and it fills me with confidence, makes me feel good hopping in a ring, when I get in there I just feel good, I just want to box
Do you find that people will go “oh there’s Paddy Donovan, the lad from Limerick”
My friends that went to school with me come over to take a picture and I’m like “Boys I went to school with yee all my life”
Yeah but now you’ve won something in the ring, do you see you differently?
And even when I go up to Dublin there’d be kids going around looking for photographs, wishing me luck. I wouldn’t know any of the kids but they’d know me and it feels good.
What school did you go to in Ennis?
CBS in Ennis
Did you enjoy school or was it all about boxing?
I wasn’t really into school. It was always kinda boxing if you know what I mean. My school was always behind me, even now in a couple of days I’m going back into the primary school to talk to the kids in there. They always kept in touch with my Dad and me. They have been a huge support.
But it’s always been boxing has it?
Yeah, always boxing
Obviously this week is a big week, we’ve spoken about that, what do you think going to the Olympics in the green tracksuit would mean to your Dad?
It would mean the world to him. It means more to him than it does to me to be honest and its a lot to me. I know it’d mean the World to him because he is always talking about it.
He is always yapping on about the Olympics and professional boxing. He says I can do it and I’ve the talent to do it. He’s seen talent he knows that I can do it.
Growing up he’d always want boxing. I’d be like, I can’t wait to get home to play a game of soccer with the lads. You’d never take it serious though but all I know now is right now it’d be a dream for me to accomplish his dream by getting there.
It’s not for me to say, but other people have said it, you’re good enough to fight professionally. That will come in time, is the Olympics your first thing?
I’d love to make the Olympics, the Olympics is the big goal. But I’ll keep in touch, there are big promoters in touch with me to turn pro, so we’re considering that but right now it’s just the Olympics and after that, maybe professional. Professional after Olympics yes, but right now it’s the Olympics
Are you always going to be a boxer?
Always and when I give up boxing I’m going to be a coach. I’d love to retire from boxing and become a high-performance coach in Dublin.
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