By Thomas Lyons (WrapsOnTV)
The highly anticipated debut of Steven Donnelly was set in stone in front of a packed Windsor Park crowd last night as the Ballymena man got off to a flying start in the paid ranks, recording a points win over Kevin McCauley to carry the perfect momentum into the rest of 2018.
Only recently making the transition as a decorated amateur, representing his native Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Dehli, Donnelly has teamed up with the main management company in boxing, with MTK making themselves heard with additions such as Carl Frampton, Billy Joe Saunders and another feature on the Belfast card, the lineal heavyweight king, Tyson Fury, in recent months, strengthening their stable.
Four years after the disappointment of the 2010 Games, Donnelly was once again selected to go to Glasgow in 2014, reaching the semifinals, losing a close split decision to India’s Mandeep Jangra, finishing the tournament with a well-deserved bronze medal.
However, the 29-year-old turns his attention to the hope of becoming a world champion as a professional, taking one more step to add to the success of Irish boxers who have reached the pinnacle, having had a respected amateur pedigree.
These include Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes (who was unfortunate in his quest for world title glory losing to the dangerous Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales, landing a sickening body shot on Barnes) and many others.
Donnelly has made clear his ambitions of a lengthy and fruitful pro career and not necessarily carrying any pressure with him from the amateur setup but the chance to prove his worth and go down in Irish folklore to add to the list of previous Irish champions such as Andy Lee who won the WBO middleweight title in America back in 2015.
Donnelly will compete at super-welterweight where there is a current crop of young hungry world level fighters including Jermell Charlo, the WBC belt holder, unified champion, ‘Swift’ Jarrett Hurd who is already targeting another unification with WBO king Jaime Munguia who defeated Liam Smith last time out and a strong domestic scene at 154lbs.
Donnelly admits he’s taking things nice and slow and making calculated steps but with an opportunity like this, to make your pro debut in front of the Windsor Park faithful must be a dream come true and desire to replicate that sort of experience again with the right backing and exposure necessary to make it far in the professional ranks.