“AS the dust settles, it’s nice to be waking up knowing I’m guaranteed a world title shot in 2018.”
Life could be about to change for TJ Doheny. The Laois native had to endure a constant barrage of both personal and professional setbacks throughout 2017, but his most-recent career victory has set him up for a potentially decisive turnaround.
Originally from Portlaoise, but now based in Australia, the 31-year-old has had to do things the hard way to date, though a dominant performance in Thailand has seen him lay the foundations for a life-altering fight in 2018.
Dauntingly travelling to Bangkok, Doheny (18-0, 13 KOs) rallied to an admirable split decision success over home fighter Pipat Chaiporn (aka Mike Tawatchi) to maintain his impressive unbeaten record and set up a shot at world honours next year.
In what was an IBF super-bantamweight title eliminator, the impressive southpaw earned the nod from all three judges to record an 18th consecutive career win, with his highest profile outing now on the horizon.
“I’m relatively unknown for a guy that’s just about to become a world champion,” outlined a modest Doheny in the aftermath of his points triumph on the road.
That could all change, though, as his successful Thai ventures means he will contest reigning IBF title holder Ryosuke Iwasa as the organisation’s number one mandatory challenger early in 2018. The Japanese champion stopped compatriot Yukinori Oguni in six rounds back in September to claim the current crown but Doheny sees weaknesses in his imminent foe.
“I’ve been checking him out quite a bit since he became champion, and look, he’s not the champion of the world for nothing and it’s a tough fight,” he stated. “But he is very beatable and stylistically he will suit me a lot more than my last fight, where I got dragged into a sloppy scrap by a wily old veteran.
“I think it will be a lot more of a tactical affair and I am fully confident that I have the skill set to beat him. So all going well, Ireland will have another world champion by mid next year.”
It has been a long and rocky road to even get to this stage for the Irishman based Down Under, having had to battle along a path littered with personal and career obstacles before finally seizing his grand opportunity in Thailand.
“It’s been a year of highs and lows for me,” admitted Doheny. “I had a bad start to the year back in Ireland taking care of my mother as she was in a coma for almost eight weeks after a serious accident.
“Then I finally made it back to Australia just in time for the birth of my son Theo James. Then another hard time hit as I missed my daughter Nicole’s Confirmation as I was back in camp for my fight in June.
“I had a couple of fights fall through and then what happened with the [Evgeny] Gradovich fight really made me start to lose faith. So hats off to my team for pulling this eliminator out of the fire and getting it done so we could close the year out on a real high and focus on the world championship fight in early 2018.”
Doheny had halted six straight opponents in the lead up to his eventually successful IBF eliminator and a seventh seemed on the cards, but home hope Chaiporn showed his experience to make it the distance in his own backyard.
“My performance could have been better but I was in there with a sloppy, negative fighter who dragged me into a dogfight, so I can’t be too hard on myself,” continued the Murphy’s Boxing promoted fighter. “After all, it was a very late change of opponent in camp and it’s always tough going into the lion’s den and taking the win on points.
“I was pretty confident of getting him out of there in the mid to late rounds but once he started to feel my power he completely switched it up and started running.
“[He was] bending over and grabbing my leg so I couldn’t really get a chance to catch him with that clean shot I was looking for, so I had to just fight his fight and just try to outwork him and dominate every round.
“But he is a 54-fight veteran, so he knows how to survive in there when under that kind of pressure.”
Irish boxing has enjoyed a rampant rise in stature at all levels recently, with a host of fresh faces coming through the ranks on the big stage, while Belfast’s Ryan Burnett and Wicklow heroine Katie Taylor lead the way at the sport’s pinnacle platform.
Burnett became unified bantamweight world champion during the course of 2017, while Taylor continued her seamless switch from the amateurs to the paid ranks to earn WBA female lightweight supremacy.
As the sport’s standing in Ireland carries on growing promisingly, the nation could well witness the crowning of a third world champion in the coming months, as Doheny confidently prepares for his own crack at those dizzy heights in 2018.