Busy Lee hoping he and Donovan have turned an important corner

Coach Andy Lee believes his unbeaten welterweight Paddy Donovan could have a breakout 2024.

Donovan impressed with a four-round stoppage win over Danny Ball and the Limerick prospect, 12-0 (9 KOs), meets Argentine William Andres Herrera at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on January 27.

“He’s an Argentinean opponent, never been stopped, 15-2, tough opponent,” stated Lee. “But Paddy’s got all the skills in the world. He’s training extremely hard and it’s a tough fight but it’s a staying busy fight. He’s keeping active, keeping his name out there, making money, and building his record and experience and it’s a different style of opponent, which will be invaluable for Paddy.”

Lee is a former world middleweight champion, and as a trainer he guided his heavyweight Joseph Parker to a huge win over Deontay Wilder last month. Lee is also a pundit for DAZN, and admits that his time with Donovan suffered as a consequence of his workload, but that they discussed the situation and worked it out. Some, particularly Stateside, felt Donovan was not going to fulfil his potential, and had already written him off.

“Paddy hasn’t been consistent,” said Lee, before pausing to think further. “Me and Paddy… I’m so busy… I haven’t been able to train Paddy for all of his fights. I’m not saying that’s the reason. But the fight with Tom Hill, Tom Hill’s a good boxer, a schooled boxer, and it wasn’t Paddy’s best showing [he won an eight-rounder], but I hadn’t trained Paddy for one day of that fight. I turned up on the day of the fight just because I’d been in camp with Joseph [Parker] at the time and Paddy was training with his dad. But we’ve changed it. We had a meeting and I apologised to Paddy, because I committed to starting with Paddy, the reason I got into boxing [training] was Paddy, and I wasn’t doing his talent justice. It was a good heart-to-heart meeting and we decided to dedicate ourselves and the results have shown for themselves. He got three good wins last year, and hopefully we will keep going with that progression.” 

The Herrera fight is on a Matchroom bill headlined by Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker, who meets Mexican veteran Jose Felix, the man who upset highly-regarded prospect Gary Gully in three rounds last May. Donovan’s last two fights have been on Matchroom shows and it’s been a while since he and Top Rank went their separate ways.

“We had a great time with Top Rank and we had a great experience with all those guys,” explained Lee. “They’re all class acts, from top to bottom, but they didn’t have any fights this side of The Pond anymore, and when it got to the point where the only fights we were getting were on Michael Conlan’s undercards, they were too few and far between. So they agreed to give us a mutual release, and they were very good because they paid for Paddy’s last fight, as a parting gift, so you couldn’t meet better people. They were great, they just couldn’t give Paddy fights and we agreed to go our separate ways, which was very fair.” 

Now Lee insists it is all systems go this year and 2024 could be Donovan’s last building year before he works his way into a title conversation.

“I think so,” said Lee. “There’s been some talks and mentions of [fighting] Lewis Crocker but I’d like to see Paddy fight in January, there’s been mentions of Katie Taylor fighting again in May, fight then [on the undercard], another step up, and then another step up, whether that’s Crocker, whether that’s whoever. There are some good fighters in England, the McCormack brothers, Cyrus Pattinson even Conah Walker, whoever wins the rematch of that, and that step up. But he [Donovan]’s still only 12 fights in. The skills are there. The talent is there. It’s just building up experience and ring time, going through those tests that you get, when it’s not going your own way. He needs a bit of that, but that’s all it is with Paddy.”

Donovan-Crocker is a mouth-watering proposition. The young prospects [Donovan is 25, Crocker is 27] are unbeaten in 30 bouts between them, with Crocker 18-0 and riding high following a wide decision win over Tyrone McKenna early last month.

“It has the potential to be [massive],” said Lee, on a possible Donovan-Crocker clash. “I don’t think it is right now. Paddy has a great name. I don’t know if Crocker has the name outside of Belfast yet, but he certainly is a [good] fighter. I think they’re both very talented, athletic fighters, punchers, different styles but both very good and it could be built into a headline fight itself, but it has to be built the right way.”