World champion John Donoghue with his Gold medal and belt at the Olympic Boxing Club, Mullingar on Wednesday evening.

New World Champion dreaming of Olympic glory

Mullingar’s newest world boxing champion returned to the Olympic Boxing Club on Wednesday evening to a hero's reception. John Donoghue (15) brought with him the gold medal and World Championship belt he won in Armenia on Sunday and fellow boxers afforded him a guard of honour as he arrived at their base in Columb Barracks.

Having conquered the world on Sunday, he is now dreaming of Olympic glory in five years time in Los Angeles.

The Mullingar teenager was showing no ill effects of a hectic 16-day schedule in Armenia, where he shocked more vaunted opponents from Russia, Greece and Uzbekistan to win the gold medal in the 63kg at the World Junior Boxing Championships.

“It was an unreal experience and I was delighted when I stood on the podium as the Irish flag was raised and the national anthem played. It was an unbelievable experience and I’m extremely grateful to Johnny Joyce, head coach, and all involved with the Olympic Boxing Club,” he said.

The gold medal winner gave special credit to his mother, Bridget, who fostered his love of boxing from a young age and he has been a member of the Olympic Boxing Club since he turned nine years old. He won gold with a year to spare and will be eligible to box at U16 level again next year.

Wednesday's return was not an occasion for politics and there was little focus on the frantic negotiations that took place outside of the ring to ensure John Donoghue was afforded the opportunity to fight on for the gold medal. However, it makes the story all the more compelling and his achievement is quite phenomenal considering it was only confirmed on Wednesday evening that he was free to take on Russian opponent Zakhar Bespelov in the quarter-final the next day.

That came after the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) reversed its decision to boycott Russian opponents due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“I found out I could box at around midnight on Wednesday last (the quarter-final was the next day) and I was delighted. I knew he was a tough opponent, but I was confident I could beat him and I went in and gave him a standing eight count in the first round. Ten seconds later he got another standing eight count and the referee stopped the fight,” John recalled.

That left the Mullingar teenager facing a European champion in Emkmanouil Fotiadis of Greece in the semi-final, a bout in which he really showed his class to win 3-0, ensuring he would box for a gold medal.

“The final was a tough test against a strong boxer from Uzbekistan: he was strong and kept his shape really well. The first round was close and in the second and third round I just got used to his style and managed to overcome him,” he said.

John is still coming to terms with the enormity of his victory.

“It felt unreal. It was good,” he smiled, in a very relaxed and modest fashion.

For John, the Olympic Games in 2028 in Los Angeles is the ultimate goal.

Johnny Joyce said the victory will inspire other young boxers in the club and the target for everyone will be European, World and Olympic medals in the years ahead.

“It’s brilliant for John because he experienced the lows of the sport last year when he very unluckily lost against Ukraine in the European Championships (3-2 split decision), denying him a medal. He came home disappointed, but tonight he returns as World Champion and that just proves what can be achieved by never giving up,” he remarked.

Johnny competed at the Bejing Olympics himself and knows what it takes to reach the highest level in the sport.

John's younger brother Jason also won a European silver medal in recent weeks so the talent for boxing clearly runs in the family. His mother, Bridget, speaking on RTE's Liveline, praised the Olympic Boxing Club for the terrific work they do for the youth in the town and said they deserve more support.

"It's a great club and they now have two a World champion, two European champions, two European bronze medal winners and an elite champion. They need a lot of support," she said.

"There's no history of boxing in the family; my two boys are the first of the Donoghues to win. They are very close; they do everything together. Jason was cheering John on all the way, both him and his grandmother. Please God they will travel to the European Championships together next year; that would be a great honour," she said.

John will now enjoy a well earned rest before he returns to training at the club on January 1. The fifth year student returns to school on Friday.