McAfee plots big upset

by Dave Donnelly
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Sallynoggin fighter Stephen McAfee will realise a dream of competing for an Irish title when he takes on Eric Donovan for the vacant featherweight title on March 30 at the National Stadium.

The 27-year-old already holds the title at super-featherweight and will take a risk to drop down in weight for the headline fight, which will be shown live on TG4.

Victor Rabei will fight Jake Hanney for the vacant belt at light-welterweight, while James Tennyson boxes for the first time since losing an IBF World super-featherweight title fight to Tevin Farmer.

The former kickboxer is six years younger than his opponent, who is trained by Neilstown’s Kenneth Egan and won bronze at the European Championships while an amateur.

The undefeated Donovan is fighting in his natural weight clash and is widely considered the favourite to take the belt – and McAfee has no problem at all encouraging that perception.

“It’ll suit me down to the ground,” McAfee tells the Dublin Gazette.

“All the pressure is off me. It’s his weight. He’s the bigger name with the bigger history. All the pressure is on him.

“He’s the more experienced fighter, but you can look at it as an experience advantage or a disadvantage. There’s two ways of looking at it in my eyes.

“I’m just going to go in with my winning mentality and let everyone think he’s going to win and we’ll see on the night.”

McAfee, who is trained by Jonathan Lewins and Parkie Lewis, has fought at featherweight before but not since making the switch to boxing in 2016.

He’s been on a strict diet since the start of the month – meaning he missed out on Pancake Tuesday – in an effort to attune his body to the lighter weight class.

And he is confident that the drop in weight won’t affect his explosive power, which has yielded two knockouts in his seven fights at the higher weight.

Donovan has a reputation as a technical boxer while McAfee is much more of a brawler, as he showed when he beat Colin O’Donovan last year by forcing him to stand up and trade punches.

McAfee says he has plenty more in his locker than just power, however, and questioned whether Donovan will have the stomach if it does become a dogfight.

“He’s more of a boxer – he has a boxing style. I think he’ll be more trying to hit and move and expecting me to come full-on, but I think I can surprise him with a bit of boxing as well.

“He’s a great boxer and all, but I’m a good boxer. I’m a great fighter, but is he a great fighter? We’ll see, when it comes down to the nitty and the gritty, how he likes it.”

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