Steven Donnelly won his first fight since his Olympic quarter final at the weekend.
The Ballymena welter stepped up to middleweight for a short-notice bout against England’s Lewis Richardson at the National Stadium, and Donnelly would blow out the cobwebs and run out a unanimous decision winner after three competitive rounds in Dublin.
The 28 year old was in good form after the win and the return to the ring following a frustrating period of limbo in his career. Donnelly admitted that he fell into something of a “rut” following his arrival home from the Rio Olympics, where he was Ireland’s best-performing boxer, as his pro aspirations did not play out as planned.
Speaking immediately after the Richardson win, Donnelly described how “I was happy enough to get the decision. It was a good fight, close, and I was sluggish as well – nowhere near my best. I felt a wee bit slow but you’d expect that moving up in weight. I’m only back training two weeks. You’d expect to be sluggish.”
Recalling his post-Olympic blues, Donnelly outlined how “I had a nice time away. It’s hard as well, getting back into it, from the highs of the Olympics to coming back to what you normally do. It’s hard to take and can make you depressed as well. I got myself into a bit of a rut with boxing, like ‘what am I going to do here?'”
“I was supposed to go down for a meeting to see about funding and stuff but I didn’t really care at the time, I was just fed up, it was just depressing. I don’t know, I obviously wanted to get a medal but I had a great Games. Just coming back here, I thought the windows were going to open for me. There was talk of Jason Quigley’s crowd [Sheer Sports Management] signing me up as well, they were talking to me and said ‘right, we’ll bring you over’.”
“So I was thinking, ‘right this is going to be great here, I’m going to go to the States and sort out a contract. There was others there as well so I thought ‘it’s definitely going to happen here, it’s the start of it all’. But then all of a sudden you’re just back to where you were before the Olympics and that was it.”
The Ulsterman detailed a tough first session back with the High Performance Unit in Dublin and noted how “I came down to training here last week and after the track session, I was this close to getting in my car and going up home. I was just not motivated. It was ‘what am I doing? There’s only six or seven down training. What am I doing?’ But that’s it, I just have to get back motivated. No one was expecting me to come down. There was all the talk on Facebook and in the articles and all about going pro.”
Donnelly acknowledged that his high-to-low struggle is not a unique one and pointed out how “Ken Egan will tell you, it’s hard to get back into it straight after the Olympics, but I’ll come again. He was the same, he always talks about it. He talked to me about that, and what to do. He was supportive that way. It’s just hard to take. Brendan Irvine will tell you as well, he was maybe in the same boat.”
The Antrim switch-hitter still harbours pro ambitions, but explained that his future is, at the moment, still up in the air
“I’m here now anyway and we’ll see how it goes.I still don’t know myself what I want to do. I’ll see what happens.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)
Joe O’Neill and Gavan Casey look ahead to 2017 in episode 1 of The Irish Boxing Show