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Donovan battles hard but still suffers defeat

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Zelfa Barrett and Eric Donovan embrace after their IBF Inter-Continental Super Feather Title bout at the Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood

Zelfa Barrett and Eric Donovan embrace after their IBF Inter-Continental Super Feather Title bout at the Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood

Mark Robinson

Zelfa Barrett and Eric Donovan embrace after their IBF Inter-Continental Super Feather Title bout at the Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood

There was no fairytale Friday for Eric Donovan in Eddie Hearn's opulent Essex estate last night as he suffered an eighth-round stoppage loss against Zelfa Barrett.

He was caught by a vicious left hook 90 seconds into the round having survived two counts in the previous round. Up until then, Donovan had shaded the contest and was ahead on points.

But he had no answer to Barrett's power punches as the 27-year-old secured the IBF Inter-Continental super featherweight title and put himself in line for a possible shot at a world title.

For Donovan, who celebrated his 35th birthday recently, this was unquestionably a career setback - but not necessarily a fatal one.

He normally boxes in the featherweight division and can now revert to the lighter weight.

It was always a risky fight to accept but it was worth the gamble as Donovan got exposure to a much wider audience and did much to impress Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn.

So it was a case of losing the battle but the war has yet to be waged.

Donovan made his ring entrance to the sound of Labi Siffre's 'Something Inside So Strong' and wasn't in the least overawed by the challenge he faced against the 1/7 favourite who had only lost one of his 24 fights.

The early rounds were cautious and technical with Barrett making effective use of the left jab. Donovan was able to stay out of danger though he was nicked over his right eye. The contest exploded into life in the third with the underdog clearly getting the better of some fiery exchanges.

Barrett found it difficult to cope with Donovan's southpaw stance and the veteran was the busier fighter, landing the crisper shots in the first half of the fight and looked to have built up a decent lead on points.

Sensing that the contest was slipping away from him, Barrett exploded into action in the seventh round.

Donovan may have been distracted by a clash of heads but he was caught by a huge left which sent him to the canvas. He survived the count but looked vulnerable and was down again just before the end of the round.

He looked to have recovered at the start of the eighth until Barrett caught him again with a huge left and the referee waved off the contest without completing the count.

However, Donovan was able to walk to his corner afterwards.