At just 22 years old, Paddy Donovan has time on his side. However, the Irishman is keen to reach the summit of the sport as quickly as possible and has his sights set on becoming welterweight world champion within three years.

While it is not uncommon for young fighters to harbour such ambitions, often managers, trainers or promoters attempt to quash the exuberance of youth by advocating for a more cautious route to success. 

However, Donovan’s goal is shared by, his trainer, Andy Lee and promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank. Tonight, Donovan (5-0, 3 KOs) takes the next step towards his target against Siar Ozgul over six rounds at the Bolton Whites Hotel.

Former Southern Area super-lightweight champion Ozgul is vastly more experienced than ‘The Real Deal,’ but rather than feeling any sense of trepidation ahead of the sternest test of his professional career to date, Donovan is excited by the prospect of being able to showcase his ability.

“It’s a good step up,” Donovan told Boxing Social the night before the contest. “It’s going to be a good challenge; it’s going to be a tough challenge. Siar is going to bring a lot to the table; he’s tough, he’s game and he’s experienced. That’s what I need, I need to be in there with someone who is going to bring the best out of me, I think this guy will do that. I think I’m good enough to be taking on good opponents, that’s why we have chosen him. I think he’s come at the right time. I want to go right to the top, I want to move nice and fast. I don’t want to be waiting around.”

Donovan’s confidence stems from his glittering amateur career where he amassed a record of 161-5. His time in the unpaid ranks saw him claim 13 junior national titles and a silver in the world junior championships.

Having faced, and defeated, some of the best amateurs in the world, Donovan has every faith in his ability. That faith is shared by Lee, who has sought to find his protégé challenging opponents since Donovan’s debut. Initially, that task proved to be difficult as the southpaw’s reputation preceded him.

However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, opportunities have been few and far between for fighters. Where some boxers would previously have deemed Donovan to be too high risk, for little reward, now, higher calibre opponents are willing to fight the Limerick man. Donovan believes that taking on foes like Ozgul will expedite his development.

“I have been all over the world as an amateur,” he said. “I have fought in the biggest championships in the world; World championships, European championships, Elite championships, so I have a vast amount of experience. I’ve been in there with some great opponents, sparring, training camps, I’ve been up there with the best. Turning pro, a lot vow to take on easier opportunities, but I want to fight tough guys with experience, that are going to keep my boxing at a high place. I just want to be the best. The only way to be the best is to beat good names and good fighters and keep improving until the day comes where I’m a world champion.”

While Ozgul sports a relatively modest 15-5 record, he has demonstrated his ability by putting on valiant displays in defeat against former WBC super-lightweight champion Viktor Postol, former European 140lbs titlist, Anthony Yigit and prospect Sean McComb. Each time, the Hackney-based Turk heard the final bell, managing to win rounds against his more illustrious opponents. Donovan is intent on making a statement by defeating Ozgul emphatically.

“I doubt he’s going to take many [rounds] tomorrow,” he said with a laugh. “I think he’s in for a real lesson tomorrow. I think he’s never boxed someone like me. Sean McComb handled him very well, and Sean McComb isn’t classed as a big puncher, he’s a brilliant fighter, but he’s not as big a puncher as me. I’m a very strong welterweight, Sean McComb is fighting [at] lightweight tomorrow, so there’s a big difference. Sean McComb out-boxed him, I’ll out-box him and I carry the punch to knock him out, so I don’t think he’s fought someone like me yet.”

Donovan made similar predictions ahead of his last contest against Jumaane Camero. Like Ozgul, ‘Predator’ represented a step up in class for Donovan, having previously held the Southern Area lightweight title. Camero’s unorthodox style has given several prospects hard fights. 

While Donovan overcame Camero (W6) with comparative ease, ‘The Real Deal’ admitted that his opponent provided a solid test for him.

“It was a tough fight,” he said. “He’s a tough opponent to fight. His style is so unique; he came from angles, switch-hitting and continuously coming forward. He’s extremely awkward. It’s been years since I fought someone like him. He’s a very, very hard fighter to fight, but good fighters find a way to deal with these fighters. I made adjustments in the fight and I handled him pretty easy, in the end. I got into my rhythm after the first round and then I went to town.”

Ahead of this bout, Donovan has displayed his ability to make adjustments to overcome adversity outside of the ring as well as between the ropes. Lockdown restrictions in Ireland prevented Donovan from travelling from his native Limerick to Dublin to train with Lee. Instead, he worked with, his father, Martin. Donovan Sr. coached his son throughout Paddy’s amateur days and has been a constant fixture in his corner during his fledgling professional career.

Due to lockdown restrictions, Donovan has been unable to train with coach Andy Lee.
Photo: MTK Global.

Donovan has also been fortunate enough to have quality sparring close to hand in the form of, his brother, Edward and, brother-in-law, Jason Harty, both of whom have recently turned pro with Queensberry Promotions.

While preparations have been far from ideal, Donovan is confident that he will be able to produce an eye-catching performance against Ozgul.

“It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie,” he admitted. “I’ve been training at home, but I haven’t been with Andy much, to be quite honest. It’s been tough due to the restrictions at home in Ireland. It’s very hard to travel, hard for sparring, hard to be training, so it’s been tough. This one has been our toughest challenge, but I prepared at home with my dad. 

“I kept active, I kept in the gym. It’s tough, but it’s tough for every fighter. I did the best I could. I prepared well and I think I’m in good enough shape to handle this fella well.”

Ozgul is the first stage of Donovan’s ambitious plan for 2021. If he defeats his opponent in the manner he believes he will, ‘The Real Deal’ will be increasing the number of scheduled rounds in his next bout. He hopes this will be the first of six fights this year, which will culminate in a title shot.

“It’s looking like after this fight, it’ll be an eight-rounder,” he said. “We are moving on from there, build the record up to about 10-0 and, by the end of the year, hopefully, I’ll be fighting for the WBC World Youth title. That’s the plan, if all goes well…hopefully,” he said with a laugh. Don’t mistake his last word as self-doubt, the younger possesses a resolute belief in his ability and is certain he has surrounded himself with the right people.

“We are hoping to get to at least 10-0 by the end of the year,” he said. “I want to keep active, keep improving my record. I know I’m only 22, but I like to move fast. I think I can be up there with the big boys. I want to show people how good I really am.

“I’ve got a good, strong team and I’ve got a great mindset for what I want to achieve. I just have to beat these guys that are put in front of me, keep building my record, keep improving, keep listening to my coaches and them titles will follow shortly.”

Donovan believes that title will be the first of many and is confident that before too long he will be challenging for world honours. With current welterweight champions: Terence Crawford, Errol Spence and Yordenis Ugas all over 30, by the time Donovan is at world level, the division is likely to be dominated by the likes of Jaron Ennis or Vergil Ortiz Jr. Regardless of who the 147lbs ruler is, Donovan is sure he will ultimately be ‘The Real Deal.’

“[In a] couple of years, [when I’m] 24, 25, why not,” he said of his world title aspirations. “I think I’m good enough; with experience, with tough fights, with tough challenges and knowing how tough it’s going to be. When I get past tough fights, build my name, build my record, I’m sure big titles will follow. “

Donovan takes his next step towards predicted stardom in Bolton tonight.
Photo: Queensberry Promotions.

Main image: MTK Global.