Donovan “The Bomb” George (22-1-1, 19 KOs) has had a healthy training camp in the lead-up to his showdown this Saturday with Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (20-0, 14 KOs). The bout is set to take place in Madison Square Garden as the co-main event of the Sergio Martinez—Matthew Macklin middleweight world title fight and will be televised on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. The bout fall’s on St. Patrick’s Day and promoter Lou DiBella is calling the match up “Bombs Away!”
March has always been a good month for Donovan’s father and trainer Pete George. “I became a cop in March, I got married in March, I won a couple city boxing championships in March back in the day and now I got my son fighting in Madison Square Garden in March on HBO.”
Pete George is looking to retire soon after thirty years as a Lincolnwood Police officer. He plans to become a fulltime boxing trainer. So far his professional stable consists of his son and undefeated prospect Mike “Hollywood” Jimenez (6-0 3 KOs) whose just stepped up to six rounders.
Pete George is in good spirits a week out from his son’s big fight. “Everything came together this camp, we’ve been training really hard, harder than ever. Don’s focused, he knows what he’s got to do. He knows how important it is to be on this big stage, he’s gonna make his debut on HBO and God willing everything’s gonna go our way” Pete told FightNews. “I really believe in my heart that when I bring ‘The Bomb’ to Madison Square Garden he’s gonna explode!” Pete said with a grin. “He’s gonna make Chicago proud of him and make his mother who’s Irish proud too. It’s gonna be a great St. Patty’s day for us.”
It’s been a long, difficult-road for this father and son team. “We came up the hard way. We fought for no money. We fought tough guys. There’s a lot of people out there who counted us out but we never gave up and we got this chance and now. It’s time to show the world what Don ‘The Bomb’ is all about.”
When asked about the likelihood that the judges won’t have a say in this one, Pete shrugged. “We’d like to knock him out. Of course we would but we’re not going out there looking to knock him out. We’re gonna fight smart and win smart and whatever happens, happens.”
Pete is proud of the way they’ve prepared for this colossal clash of action-fighters. “We did it old school. We don’t have all that fancy stuff, a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach. We did this all old-school and you’ll see it’s all gonna pay off for us.”
Some people in boxing have questioned Donovan’s choice to stay in Chicago rather than leave home for one of the big camps. “Who say’s there’s no great sparring in Chicago?” Pete said with a grimace. “You can get someone ready in Chicago!“
Don’s primary sparring partner was light heavyweight contender Andrew Fonfara (20-2, 11 KOs). Fonfara is rated in the top ten by the WBO and is set to fight the night before Donovan’s St Patty’s day showdown. “We sparred a lot of rounds over a lot of sessions. I think Don is ready for this fight and I am too,” Fonfara told FightNews after finishing his last six rounds of sparring with Donovan. “Next week is going to be a winner’s week for me and Don.”
Fonfara has been sparring with Donovan for several years and he noticed a difference with Don this camp. “He’s faster than usual and he’s in much better shape than I’ve ever seen him before. If Don punches Rodriguez clean, he’ll knock him out.”
Fonfara is looking forward to watching the bout as a fan. “It’s gonna be a war because Don and Edwin are both physically strong but more important, they both have strong characters and that’s what will make this a great fight.”
Donovan George is pleased with the sparring he’s gotten. “Fonfara’s perfect sparring for this fight because Rodriguez and him are both taller fighters. They fight from the outside and they got good body-punches.” Donovan told FightNews. “Fonfara’s just kinda like a bigger version of Edwin.”
The sparring wasn’t just limited to Fonfara. Donovan has gotten some incredible sparring with the deep-stable at Sam Colonna’s Chicago Boxing Club in Bridgeport on Chicago’s Southside. The sparring sessions have included recent IBF middleweight world title challenger Osumanu Adama (20-3, 15 KOs), Polish light heavyweight Gregory Sozynski (21-1-1, 10 KOs), WBF light middleweight champion Henry Coyle (16-2, 12 KOs), Ukraine’s Viktor Polyakov (10-0, 6 KOs), Chicago middleweight Ramon Valenzuela Jr. (6-0, 1 KOs), Chi-town’s light heavyweight Junior Wright (3-0, 3 KOs) and of course Mike “Hollywood” Jimenez.
“When one of them win; I feel like I win.” Donovan said of his stable mates. “It’s like one big team: Team Chicago!”
Sam Colonna’s been pleased with the sparring.
“It’s been a hell of a ride for the last couple of months in here. We’ve had really great sparring sessions. Some people say it’s better than HBO! You put some top-notch boxers in the ring and you get exciting sparring. People come to the gym just to watch the sparring. It’s like in the old day’s at Windy City. Guy’s used to go from gym to gym and they’d say it was better than some of the fights. It’s proven true here in the past couple weeks. We’ve had some real tense sparring.”
The intensity hasn’t been detrimental to the camaraderie at Chicago Boxing Club.
“These guy’s are like a family.” Colonna told FightNews. “They really work together. There’s nothing to prove within this group. We tell guy’s to mimic the other boxer’s upcoming opponents and they do it. It works great.”
Colonna still misses the grit and soul of Windy City; the gym that helped build the career’s of hall of famer’s like Muhammad Ali and Tony Zale—not to mention numerous contenders in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s.
“The sparring definitely reminds me of the old days at Windy City but this gym (Chicago Boxing Club) hasn’t ingrained itself in my heart yet the way Windy City will always be.”
Donovan’s training for this HBO bout has intensified to say the least. “Everything has just been a lot more work,” said the fighter. “Instead of working ten rounds in the gym we’re working twenty rounds. Instead of running three miles, we’re running six. We did a lot of hill training and stair-training with weighted vests. It’s been just brutal.”
This new training regiment includes 200 yard up-hill sprints. Then it’s the 150 stairs cut into the side of the hill. “We’d run like 15 stairs then throw combo’s for a few seconds, then run up again. My Dad would be there and shout out another combo and we’d just do that all the way up.”
Donovan’s only been the underdog once in his career and that didn’t go so well for his opponent — the then undefeated Cornelius White (18-1 15 KOs). Donovan stopped White in the first round. Since then White defeated former Cuban Olympian Yordanis Despaigne (9-2, 4 KOs).
“I’m assuming I’ll be a slight underdog but I love that role! I’ve got nothing to lose in this fight. He’s the undefeated guy. He’s what everybody’s talking about. I’m just kind of brought in there. I’m the unknown guy who can punch and I’m gonna go in there and lay it all out on the line.”
Boxing is 90% mental and Donovan spends a lot of time thinking about his opponent.
“I know he’s gonna come in, in great shape. I know he’s got to have a lot of questions in his mind too. He’s undefeated. He’s never been in a fight where they didn’t already know the outcome. If you look at his resume, everybody he fought they pretty much knew that he was gonna win. He’s the favorite but I know there’s gonna be some doubts in his mind too—like is he gonna be able to take that big shot I’m gonna tag him with? Is he gonna be able to recover? There’s gonna be a lot of questions that he himself has to answer. Every fight tells a story.”
Every fight does tell a story. The question is what story will it be, the story of the undefeated fighter finding a way to triumph once again? Or will it be the story of the rugged-underdog who’s tasted defeat and now found a way to rise back to the top?
Both of these fighters are coming to a pivotal point in their careers. The pressure has had its effects on Donovan.
“I’m just so focused I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I just think about the fight. This is everything I’ve worked for my whole entire career. It’s all piled-up and rolled-up into one. This is a must win fight for me. I’ve been pro for 8 years and I’ve finally got an opportunity and I just want to cash in on it fully.”
Donovan’s opponent has even slipped into his dreams.
“I’m thinking about it twenty-four hours a day. I go to sleep and I’m thinking about him and so of course I start dreaming about the fight. How it’s gonna happen and the crowd and how I’m gonna win and the ref holding my hand up at the end and everybody going crazy. I know it’s gonna be a historic war. I know he’s gonna hit me. I know I’m gonna hit him. I know it’s gonna be bloody, it’s gonna be messy, it’s gonna be great! I know I’m gonna win. I know it.”
Saturday Night on Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll find out if this half-Irish underdog can pull off an upset on boxing’s most historic stage.