Olympian Steven Donnelly weighing up pro offers after turning back on amateur game

Steven Donnelly won two fights at the recent Rio Olympics and has been the subject of interest from professional promoters
Neil Loughran

RIO Olympian Steven Donnelly has decided to turn his back on the amateur game, and is in talks with two different promoters about making a move into the professional ranks.

Although it was a disappointing Games for Ireland as a whole, Donnelly came out of his first Olympics with real credit as he picked up two victories before eventually bowing out to world champion Mohamed Rabii.

His efforts did not go unnoticed, with a representative of Los Angeles-based Espinoza Boxing getting in touch just days after his Olympic exit about the possibility of relocating to America's west coast.

Espinoza Boxing is the home of unbeaten Mexican sensation Oscar Valdez, who could be a possible future opponent for Belfast's Carl Frampton following the Tigers Bay fighter's switch to featherweight.

The company has close ties with Golden Boy Promotions as well as US boxing mogul Al Haymon, regarded as the most powerful man in the sport.

Also interested in securing the services of the Ballymena banger is Macklin's Gym Marbella (MGM), as they continue to build up an impressive stable of Irish fighters.

MGM yesterday confirmed that they had signed up Donnelly's Irish Olympic team-mate Paddy Barnes, with the likes of Jamie Conlan, Tyrone McKenna, Marc McCullough and heavyweight Steven Ward already on their books.

And Matthew Macklin was in touch with the 28-year-old over the weekend to discuss the future after Donnelly confirmed his amateur days were over.

“Oh yeah, I'm 100 per cent done,” he said.

“It's hard for me to get motivated and after training for an Olympics, I can't go back and train for the Irish seniors, do the same things all over again.

“I want to hit the pros - I'd be a far better pro as well. In the amateurs, you're rushed, you have to win a round to get into the fight, and I'd rather take my time, settle into it more.”

Whoever he eventually signs with, Donnelly is keen to get back in the ring as soon as possible, and would love to make his pro debut – most likely as a light-middleweight - before the end of the year.

“I'd like to have it all sorted in the next weeks, have a clear vision of what I'm doing,” he continued.

“I just need to see what kind of money's on the table. I've been in contact with Espinoza but I'm not sure about living over there [in LA], so I need to talk to them and see what exactly they have in mind, how many fights per year, that sort of thing.

“I'm not going for buttons, I deserve a decent signing on fee and we'll take it from there.”

A month on from Rio, Donnelly – unlike most of the Irish fighters – has great memories of his time in Brazil.

Considering that this time last year he had all but quit the sport, his qualification and participation in the Olympics was a huge turning point in Donnelly's career.

He continued: “It was a great story, and I did about the best of the Irish boxers over there. I boxed brilliant, spoke well after my fights too, came across well, had two great wins, and just fell short in the end.

“In the first fight I was under serious pressure. Beforehand I couldn't even speak or anything. I didn't even feel good in there, people said I boxed well but I felt under serious pressure.

“The second fight I felt great, I was laughing and joking in the warm-up area and from then on I was loving it. I was confident and I gave it my all in the fight I lost.

“It was a brilliant experience, something I'll never forget.”

Meanwhile, Belfast bantamweight Michael Conlan is currently in Las Vegas where he is understood to have held talks with some of the big hitters in the boxing world.

The Clonard fighter was reportedly a guest of former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather at Friday night's bill at the Cosmopolitan Casino, which was headlined by Ishe Smith's defeat of Frank Galarza.

Mayweather was at the Riocentro Pavilion both times Conlan fought at last month's Olympics, and was there to witness his controversial defeat to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin, which saw his dreams of winning gold ended prematurely

With Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank - both of whom have expressed an interest in the 24-year-old in the past - also based on the west coast, Conlan is expected to have a busy few weeks ahead as he ponders his next move.


COMMONWEALTH super-flyweight champion Jamie Conlan officially opened the new boxing season for Carryduff ABC last week by visiting the club's Lough Moss Centre gym.

Unbeaten Conlan - who returns to the ring at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on November 5 - was on hand to discuss his career to date and to tutor the club's boxers in the most effective way to use their jab and throw body punches.

Carryduff ABC was founded in September 2013 by Gareth McAuley and Martin Cunningham and currently has seven coaches and 50 members from across south Belfast as well as mid and East Down.

In the 2015/16 season the club enjoyed its first major successes, picking up a number of Antrim and Ulster titles.

The club runs junior and senior sessions, with junior members training on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6.15-7.15pm. Senior boxers train from 7.15pm on both evenings with an additional Saturday morning session for competing boxers.

For more information on the club, contact Cormac Campbell on 07846 413565.


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