Demotivated Steven Donnelly considers boxing future

Steven Donnelly: "I should be at the Olympics already, there’s no hunger there the way there was before"
Neil Loughran

BACK in February Steven Donnelly looked to be on his way to next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio – but nine months on he admits he doesn’t know whether he has any future in the sport.

A Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in Glasgow last year, Donnelly carried that momentum into a gruelling World Series of Boxing (WSB) schedule in the early months of 2015.

However, a visa mix-up that saw him sent home from Azerbaijan before he had even set foot outside the airport proved the beginning of the end of his Olympic dream.

Donnelly finished fourth in the WSB’s welterweight standings, with only the top two qualifying automatically for Rio.

But one shaft of light still remains.

Morocco’s Mohammad Rabii claimed number one position but also qualified at the World Championships in Qatar last month. He must take the Olympic place claimed in Qatar.

That technically, in regards to Olympic qualification, bumps Donnelly up to third, with Radzhab Butaev and Azeri Parviz Baghirov qualifying in first and second place.

However, Andrey Zamkovoy also qualified for Russia through AIBA Pro Boxing and Russia will use their national championships, which end on November 29, to separate the pair.

If Zamkovoy out-performs Butaev, that would move Donnelly into the top two – enough to qualify the Ballymena man for Rio.

Until that complicated matter is resolved, though, the 26-year-old can’t even comprehend lacing up the gloves for a competitive bout.

“I’m in decent enough shape, but I’m just ticking over at the club until I hear about this Russian thing,” he said.

“That visa just messed me up. Even when I think back, when I beat the Italian in Italy, I destroyed him, but it was given as a split decision.

“That only gave me four points, so wee things like that just went against me in the end.

“All I can do is just wait and see what happens.”

The Irish Elite Championships get under way in Dublin this Saturday but Donnelly – who finished top of the 69kg pile in 2014 when he beat current champion Adam Nolan – didn’t enter.

The left hand that caused him bother during the WSB has still not fully recovered, but he admits it is more an issue of motivation.

If the Russian situation doesn’t play out in his favour, Donnelly doesn’t know where to turn.

He is highly-regarded in the Irish High Performance Unit, and has been sounded out by world middleweight challenger Matthew Macklin about coming over to his pro gym in Marbella.

Thus far, his head hasn’t been turned.

“Boxing doesn’t even mean anything to me any more,” said Donnelly.

“I should be at the Olympics already, there’s no hunger there the way there was before.

“Part of me would love to settle a score with Nolan, but there’s no real interest there for me.

“If they [the Irish Elites] were in December even I’d maybe have thought about it but with only a couple of weeks to get fit, and this Russian thing still to be decided, it would just be asking too much.

“The year I beat Nolan in the final, I was training properly, running mountains for about seven weeks. It’s just not the same, I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready.

“They want me back down in Dublin, but if this doesn’t work out, unless I get my hunger back, I don’t know...

“I could do the WSB again next year, but I don’t know if I even want to do that. My head’s just not in it at the minute.”
A positive outcome in Samara would be just the tonic.


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