'My time to shine': TJ Doheny interview
Ahead of a daunting and somewhat 'under the radar' showdown in Tokyo for the IBF super bantamweight title, Ireland's TJ Doheny tells Lee Gormley his time has come...
On 18 August Irish eyes will be firmly fixed on Belfast’s Windsor Park, as home hero Carl Frampton fulfils his long-desired dream of fighting at the local football arena in front of over 20,000 passionate supporters.
‘The Jackal’ has long been the leading light in the sport in the Emerald Isle and he will next attempt to take another promising step towards reclaiming world honours with victory over Australia’s Luke Jackson.
But during a week in which the focus of the sporting spotlight will fall upon Frampton’s latest home exploits in Belfast, almost 6,000 miles across the globe in ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’ another Irish fighter is aiming to shine away from the mainstream view.
Such is the magnitude and profile of the card which Frampton tops - which also features former unified heavyweight champion Tyson Fury - any other pugilistic aspirations around the same time could easily go somewhat unnoticed.
That’s the situation Ireland’s Australia-based world title contender TJ Doheny finds himself in, as he prepares to do battle with IBF super-bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa in Japan.
Just two days before Frampton’s big night on home soil gets started, and in light of the news that Dublin’s Conor McGregor will return to the UFC in October for a Khabib Nurmagomedov showdown, Doheny travels to the lion’s den of Korakuen Hall for what is undoubtedly the biggest night of his career.
But it’s a fight that has endured a lack of widespread coverage, with the Portlaois native’s upcoming endeavours seemingly slipping under the radar.
“To be honest it doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” admits the 31-year-old, undeterred by his imminent title bout falling behind Frampton and McGregor’s more high-profile news in the wider public eye.
“I’m not really in the same profile bracket as those boys yet," he continues, confidently emphasising the word ‘yet’.
“I’m just happy to be doing my own thing and keeping my mind on the job at hand. All that other bullshit will come after I get my hands on that strap. We’ve got a job to do no matter where it may be and I am 100 per cent sure that I will be leaving Japan as the new IBF world champion.”
Doheny hasn’t done things the easy way. His path towards this crack at the IBF crown comes on the back of plenty of hardships throughout his career, with several personal setbacks adding to the rocky road.
These came in the form of a previously sick relative, missed family occasions, bouts falling through and others being delayed for the undefeated southpaw based Down Under. But all of that will only make a victory over Iwasa in the heart of Japan taste all the sweeter.
“It’s been a long hard road to get to where I am right now,” states the man aiming to become Ireland’s latest world title holder. “I’ve had to fight my way into this position for over six years and it’s gonna taste so sweet knowing that I’ve finally achieved what I set out to do.”
It was a successful venture deep into Thailand that saw Doheny secure his crack at world title honours last year.
He came away from a daunting trip to Bangkok with an impressive decision triumph over home fighter Pipat Chaiporn (aka Mike Tawatchai) to maintain his unblemished record, in what was a sanctioned IBF eliminator.
A swift two-round blitz of American Mike Oliver at the House of Blues in Boston followed. This tick-over outing played out in front of plenty of Irish community enthusiasm in the US city, helped by Doheny’s promotional deal with Ken Casey, a member of the popular Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys.
With a career record of 19 straight victories, including 14 inside the distance, the former construction worker will hope to cement a career-topping victory on the road again in what will be a tough test against a fellow southpaw.
The defending titlist will provide a stern challenge for the in-form number one contender, particularly in his own backyard. Iwasa, now 28, has secured six successive victories since his last defeat to former Ryan Burnett opponent Lee Haskins at 118lbs, with four finishing early.
Although, on the back of ideal preparations for the globetrotting Irishman, Doheny will climb the ring ropes in Tokyo ready to put any setbacks behind him and finally realise his dream of having the world title wrapped around his waist.
“Camp has gone really well,” he adds. “I couldn’t have asked for better prep leading into this fight. I am in great condition and feeling supremely confident.
“I won’t be giving too much away so I will just say that the fans can expect my best performance to date by far. This is my time to shine and I’m more than ready for it.”