By James Lupton
IBF super bantamweight champion TJ Doheny talks to James Lupton about world title triumphs, how he ended up Down Under and his impending unification battle with Daniel Roman...
Ireland has fast become a hotbed for elite boxing, yet there is an Irish world champion who has never fought in Ireland as a professional. Terrence John Doheny, better known as TJ is the IBF super bantamweight champion and undefeated in 21 professional fights.
After a spur of the moment relocation to Australia, it was Japan where Doheny got his big break. Defeating Ryosuke Iwasa in his own backyard so to speak.
Doheny regaled Boxing Monthly with a memorable tale from that heady night last August.
“There’s a funny story. We were standing there [in the centre of the ring] and not one of us could speak a word of Japanese. One of the guys recognised a word, I think it was ‘shin champion’ something like that, he was saying ‘you’ve won, you’ve won!’ That was when I was just overcome with emotion, honestly [it’s] because I have been through the mill as a pro. But I stayed believing in myself.
“Actually one of my friends had to tell me to stop crying in the ring so I could get some decent photographs. I was so emotional, even looking back now I get a lump in my throat.”
In the immediate aftermath, with Doheny’s gloves still warm, he had a second Japanese fighter squaring up to him in the ring. Storming to the centre of the canvas was 122lbs contender Tomoki Kameda in an attempt to build a future fight against the newly crowned champion.
“He was being a little prick, to be honest, because I just called my fiance Rebecca into the ring and my mum who travelled all the way to Japan on her own. My mum just come out of a coma last year and for her to make it to Japan, it was a great feeling to get them up into the ring, and for this little prick to get up in the ring trying to call me out.
“I was just like ‘get the fuck outta here’ because that was my moment. I had just won the belt so I shoved him away. In Japan, they are meant to be very respectful and honourable people so I was surprised he got up and did that. I brushed it off, it’ll be a long time until he gets a crack anyway.
“My manager Mike Altamura and MTK Global had been contacted about the Kameda fight but we haven’t heard much since. He has since dropped out of the top ten of the IBF rankings so it doesn’t look like it’s on the cards.”
Since that night in Japan Doheny has signed a promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing which will aim to elevate TJ to the next level. It was a third Japanese fighter who the fighting Irishman defended his title against, Ryohei Takahashi. Madison Square Garden saw Eddie Hearn’s new signing winning via eleventh-round TKO in January.
It is Doheny’s dream to defend his world title belt in his hometown of Portlaois. This may be a fight for later down the line, but it would finally allow TJ to box in front of a home crowd. A crowd he hopes would be more supportive than his already great support in Australia.
“I’ve yet to fight in Ireland as a pro but I’d like to think that if I did fight in Ireland I would have a better home crowd there. In saying that, there’s a massive Irish community in Australia. Most of my fights have been in Sydney and I’ve always had a great turn out. It’s probably the reason I was able to get myself in this position because I had so much support.
“In Australia, there’s no signing up with promoters, you’re constantly on ticket deals. It all depends on what you can sell to what level of opponent you fight. I always had good support in that sense from the Irish community and sponsors to help me progress.
“I’d love to get back and defend in Portlaois. That would be the ultimate goal now, to defend the world title. Even better if it was against an Irish fighter - [to] have an all-Irish title fight, that’s another dream of mine.”
Doheny originally left Ireland to travel the world on a trip which wasn’t expected to exceed 12 months. But then, in his own words, he "fell in love" with Australia and has now spent ten happy years Down Under.
“It was back in 2008. I just upped sticks, I wanted a break from boxing and I took a year out. I went to Australia and ended up falling in love with the place and ended up staying here.
“At the time everybody seemed to be going there, work was slowing up in Ireland. I just needed a year out for a break. I missed out on going to the Olympic Games so we said we would come to Australia and just the lifestyle suited me so we stayed here.”
The move came after Doheny had missed out in his Olympic dream. He had planned to enter the Beijing games and return to Portlaois with a medal draped around his neck, but it wasn’t to be.
“I was beaten in the box-off by John-Joe Nevin and he went to the qualifiers where he qualified. That was my main goal so once I was beaten by him I just took a break out because it was devastating.
“I had no intentions of turning pro at the time, the main objective was always to get an Olympic medal or make it to the Olympic Games.
“I was probably out of boxing for 18 months before I got back into it. I had a few amateur contests then I decided to turn pro and here we are.
“I wasn’t getting the level of competition in the amateurs and I had no intentions of moving back home. So I said if turned pro maybe I’d get different competition and it just kind of snowballed for me then.”
Doheny admits he feels he turned to the 'punch for pa'y ranks later than he would’ve liked, however it benefited him more as his maturity levels had increased with age.
“Ideally I’d probably have like to of turned pro a little earlier but it is what it is. In one sense I was more mature because one of my biggest downfalls was that I was hotheaded as a young amateur. When I did turn pro I was able to handle any adversity I came up against in fights instead of just losing my rag as I used to in the amateurs.”
Maturity is one of the most important weapons in a fighter's arsenal, and had Doheny not had this tool at his disposal perhaps he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“Look if I didn’t think that I had the ability to win a world title I would’ve pulled the pin a long time ago. It’s a hard racket, mentally it’s hard too. It probably three years into my career before I stopped working, I was trying to work, trying to train, trying to sell tickets then you have guys pulling out of fights at the last second so the fights off.
"It’s just a lot of stresses but I always believed in myself and I knew I had the ability. Obviously, I’d have had to have been matched correctly and be guided right. I always had the belief I had what it takes to make it and only for that or I’d have pulled the pin a long time ago because it’s not easy on a ticket deal with having no backing.”
Now a world champion, Doheny is being guided by one of boxing’s rising management companies MTK Global. Add DAZN and Eddie Hearn into the mix and he is arguably in the best hands possible.
Unification has been on Doheny's mind since capturing the world title and he will get the chance to add the WBA 'super' crown to his IBF title when he faces Californian Daniel Roman on 26 April in the Forum, Inglewood.
“That’s what I’m in it for," he explains. "I don’t want to be defending against contenders for the next two years. No, I want to push on and unify the division and see where we can take this [journey].”
Originally published: https://www.boxingmonthly.com/stories/i-want-to-push-on-tj-doheny-interview/