By Anthony Cocks
On the eve of his inaugural world title defence IBF super bantamweight champion TJ ‘The Power’ Doheny 20-0 (14) has revealed he almost walked away from the sport a year before he won the world championship.
In late 2017 the Irish southpaw, who makes his home in Sydney, Australia but trains out of Boston under the watchful eye of coach Hector Bermudez, has just seen his highly-anticipated world title eliminator against former world champion Evgeny Gradovich fall through.
It wasn’t the first fight to be ripped out from under him. And with his young family waiting for him back home in Australia, he began to wonder if it was all worth it.
“My career wasn’t really progressing even though I was lined up for a world title,” Doheny, 32, told Irish-Boxing.
“What happened was, my son was born and I was on a promise of fights here [in America]. My son was only two months old and I left to come to America to get ready for a fight – it fell through, we got another date, that fell through, fights just kept falling through.
“I was starting to lose faith. There’s only so much you can do and I was away from my family, away from my little boy.
“I had my bag packed, I was ready to move on, go back to Sydney and reset and go again – then the phone call came from Thailand and it just started steamrolling from there.”
Doheny would face world-rated Thai veteran Mike Tawatchi – alias Pipat Chaiporn – in Bangkok that December, a fight he would win by split decision.
After a rudimentary second round knockout of Mike Oliver back in Boston in March, Doheny packed his bags and jetted off to Japan to challenge IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa at the world-famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo last August.
After 12 fast-paced rounds Doheny was crowned IBF 122-pound champion by unanimous decision and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We got a blessing, we got a phone call for an eliminator in Thailand, we won that, got to Japan, snatched the belt from Iwasa, and here I am about to defend my title in Madison Square Garden on Friday night,” said Doheny, who recently signed a promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing USA.
“Unbelievable stuff, the stuff of dreams.
“Just before I won the eliminator, I had a lot of problems, a lot of setbacks. Honestly, I was thinking about going looking for a job, that’s where I was at.”
Doheny will make the maiden defence of his world championship when he takes on Japanese challenger Ryohei Takakashi 16-3-1 (6) at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York on the undercard of WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade’s title defence against Artur Akavov.
The IBF number 10 ranked contender has promised to upset Doheny despite being a late call-up for the fight.
“It is really an honour to fight a world title match in this big event,” Takahashi told the Japanese media at Yokohama Airport before boarding a flight for the USA.
“I’ll show everyone a great fight and rise up as a champion. I will make it happen.
“I imagine that TJ Doheny believes I will be a comfortable challenge. I will make him regret fighting me with boxing full of will and enthusiasm.”
Despite the late notice, Takahashi’s promoter Ichitaro Ishii revealed Doheny’s team had been in contact about a potential fight as early as the start of December.
Since then Takahashi has stayed in tip-top condition, training alongside WBO super featherweight champion Masayuki Ito since.
“My physical condition is great and I am ready and willing to drop a surprise bomb in the ring in New York and produce a great triumph,” he insisted.
Despite his confidence Takahashi will be facing a hungry champion with a high punch output, solid power and an overwhelming will to win.
Don’t expect Doheny to relinquish his title easily after all the hard work and sacrifice he has put in to get to where he is today.