Steven Donnelly’s living the dream as Ballymena fighter heads for Rio

Ireland's Steven Donnelly (right)  will fight at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016
Ireland's Steven Donnelly (right) will fight at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016

Ballymena’s Steven Donnelly is in dreamland after receiving notification that he will fight in the Olympics in Rio next summer.

And after months of waiting, commitment and hard work, Donnelly has finally got the green light to compete at his first ever Olympic Games.

Donnelly - who fights out of the All Saints club in Ballymena - says he was delighted when he heard the news.

““It feels amazing now that it’s all confirmed, it’s what dreams are made of.

“Every amateur’s dream is to go to the Olympics, it’s the biggest stage for sport – I can’t wait,” he added.

And Donnelly admits he was up early on Sunday morning watching the finals of the Russian championships on the internet, praying for Andrey Zamkovoy to defeat Radzhab Butzev in the welterweight final - because if Zamkovoy won Donnelly was on the flight to Rio.

And Donnelly says waiting for the fight to end in Russia and the result to be read out was not an easy thing to do.

“It was very hard relying on other results, but rewarding at the same time.

“I was on my own in the living room with the iPad on with the TV on mute.

“After the final bell I said ‘he’s done enough to win this’ – and when he won I jumped in the air.

“I let a roar out of me and so did my dad upstairs who was also watching it.

“It was emotional, I’m not going to lie,” added a delighted Donnelly.

After some time spent away from the sport, a reinvigorated Donnelly is back in training ahead of the Games and he is determined to show the world what he can do.

“The plan now is to get into the best shape of my life for Rio.

“I’ve been out of action for a while, but it will all come back with good sparring and hard-work which I’ve started already.

“I went off the rails for a while before the Commonwealth Games - but got myself back on track.

“I did well at the Commonwealth Games and now I am heading for Rio.”

Donnelly will join Paddy Barnes in the WSB again next season, jet-setting across the globe and fighting the World’s very best and he says it is perfect preparation for next summer .

“I’m very confident of making an impact in Rio.

“Everything up and until Rio is preparation, and I’ll peak just in time for the big one.

“Once I’m in proper good shape, I’m a dangerous fighter with a big heart.

“I’ve a high work-rate. I’m a box fighter,.

“I like a brawl and I like to box, I can switch-hit, and I will continue to improve even more,” he added.

And Donnelly says after winning a Commonwealth bronze medal and qualification for the Olympics, he can put his dark days out of the ring behind him.

“It was just a mad period – there’s no other way I can describe it,” he recalls.

“When I look back at that period of my life now I’m embarrassed, totally embarrassed.

“I was drinking myself into oblivion, getting into fights, getting barred from pubs.

“I was depressed and falling out with people I was close to – it just wasn’t my normal behaviour at all.

“All the time I was thinking ‘I’m finished in boxing – there’s no way back for me after this’.

“Boxing has been my life since I was a wee boy and I missed the discipline and the routine of training. But now I am back and looking to put the record straight.”