John O'Donnell

John O’Donnell is a former English and Commonwealth welterweight champion.  At the age of 29, he is now looking to make up for lost time.
The above may seem a mixed statement.  At 29 O’Donnell (29-2-0) still has plenty of years ahead of him, and should arguably be just reaching his peak.  Plus having already held both the prestigious English and Commonwealth titles, accolades most fighters will never achieve, it is perhaps contradictory to suggest that his record doesn’t reflect the talent he possesses. 
But O’Donnell is now coming back from a two year absence from the sport spanning July 2013 to May 2015 and his first intention is clear – win the British title. 
“Some things happened outside of boxing, so I took a couple of years away from the sport” O’Donnell tells me.  “I got back in the ring against (Laszlo) Fazekas and all respect he was a journeyman.  I got offered the chance to get on the show at one weeks notice, but I was in shape and jumped at the chance to take the fight.  He was durable enough and it was good to get in there.”
It was a low key return for O’Donnell - Fazekas took him the full eight round distance without causing much trouble.  With the return in the bag, O’Donnell landed himself a deal with Manager/Promoter Steve Goodwin to help him catch up with lost time.  How did the link up come about?  “After my return I had a friend who knew Steve.  He arranged a meeting between us – it was as simple as that and we signed up together”.
Steve Goodwin with his stable of fighters at Goodwin Promotions have a reputation of being able to land opportunities for their fighters, particularly around the British title scene.  That is where O’Donnell has his sights firmly set – and the man in the way is a certain Sam Eggington.  O’Donnell hasn’t been quite in his pursuit of the tall Birmingham fighter who is currently in possession of the Lonsdale belt in the welterweight division. 
“Him and his trainer on Twitter, they are happy to speak about me but they won’t engage with me.  I hear from other people about him and his trainer John Pegg that they are chatting about me – who else can he fight October 17th?  Just take the fight!” says the ever blunt O’Donnell.  The fight date mentioned is when Eggington is due to make the first defence of his British title won back in July versus undefeated Glenn Foot, as well as his Commonwealth strap.  Sky have the date in the diary and confirmed Eggington will fight – it is just an opponent that is lacking.  O’Donnell is happy to fill that void.
“People have said how can I deserve the fight when I’ve only had one fight back.  It speaks for itself, I have had two years out and straight away when I’ve come back the Board have put me in to an eliminator.  Nobody wants to fight me though.  If the eliminator comes about with Dale Evans (10-2-2) then he would probably pull out too.  Dale Evans – I’ve looked him up, everytime he steps up in class (Larry Ekundayo) he gets beaten.  I hear he says he’s going to punch my head in – I guarantee I take him apart.  If beating him is the route I have to go to get to Eggington then I will happily do it.  People keep saying that I need to have the big fights first, but there’s nobody there – big fights with who?!  We have offered the fight to loads of people but they won’t take it – I’m going to have to get myself in a position where Eggington has to fight me.”
The focus is clearly there for O’Donnell, a path set out that he is determined to navigate either directly through or via the eliminator with Evans.  This is perhaps a reflection of the lessons that he learned before he took his two years away from the ring.  Back in 2011 he suffered a loss to Craig Watson, a fighter who he had previously beaten.  The fight was for the British title and it saw O’Donnell struggle with making the weight.  “At the time I didn’t know anything about nutrition or eating properly” he tells me.  O’Donnell took three attempts to make the 147lbs limit, eventually getting down to the weight.  “I got beaten on the scales in that fight, not in the ring  Since then I have got a nutritionist and a great strength and conditioning coach.  I won’t lie, making the weight is still hard, but I can do it now.”
John O'Donnell
Also as part of his earlier career O’Donnell gained exposure as part of what was, at the time, the biggest Pay Per View event in America – Oscar De La Hoya vs Floyd Mayweather.  The Golden Boy vs Money Wayweather broke box office records, and the man from Galway in Ireland got himself a place on the undercard.  It didn’t go as planned that night – O’Donnell lost in the second round to Cristian Solano.  He recalls the evening:
“At the time was an unbeaten 15-0 prospect, only 21.  I should never have gone over and taken that fight.  In my head I could get in and get out, but that’s not the right thing to do as a boxer.  All I can remember is shipping a left hook and taking a knee and thinking “what the fuck was that?”.  I go back to my corner the referee then stops it – I found out after that my trainer Rob McCracken had thrown in the towel.  That’s fair enough, he told me afterwards he felt he had to do it and I can’t argue with that. 
But the experience was something else – the press conference with Mayweather, I got to spar with Shane Mosley, it was an unbelievable experience.”
Incredible memories and something that few can claim to be a part of.  But back to the here and now and we soon end up going back to the rangy Brummie, Sam Eggington.  Such is the focus of O’Donnell at present that far rather than discuss his Vegas trip and being part of history, he would rather discuss winning a title that Vegas wouldn’t care for. 
“I guarantee you that he will vacate the British title rather than fight me, one hundred percent” asserts O’Donnell.  “I know what I would do to him, I would take Eggington apart.  Don’t take anything away from him, he’s a tough kid, he’s got the British title and I respect him for that, but I take him apart.  To me I see flaws in him, when I have watched him I cannot see how he would beat me, it’s not happening.  He’s only 21 – if he mans up and takes that fight then he will learn from it, he will learn from his losses.  He will get more respect for taking the fight and losing than just vacating the title.”
Confidence isn’t a trait that O’Donnell lacks in.  Perhaps that comes from age and reflection – the ability to look back and realise when fights were taken at the wrong point of his career and that now he wants to turbo charge his comeback.  The heady days of being a part of the Vegas PPV scene may be behind him, but that doesn’t cause O’Donnell a problem.  Although he never stated it, I could sense that there is a feeling that he still need to fulfil his own potential – although maybe not a Vegas headline slot, but to push on to bigger and better things.  Maybe a fight with Eggington would help propel him towards world titles in the future.  At 29 years old with a new team behind him giving him the help he never had during the first stage of his career O’Donnell doesn’t want to hang around.  He may be only one fight into his comeback, but don’t rule out fight number two as being for gold.