By Anthony Cocks

In an early candidate for fight of the year, super bantamweight TJ Doheny 21-1 (15) delivered a stirring performance in his majority decision loss to Danny Roman 27-2-1 (10) in their IBF and WBA 122-pound unification bout at The Forum in Inglewood, California on Friday night.

In a back-and-forth brawl that saw Doheny climb off the canvas twice, Roman edged the fight 116-110 on two of the judges’ scorecards, while the third judge had the fight even 113-113.

“I got beaten by the best 122 fighter in the world. I said it all along in the build-up, the winner was going to be the best in the world. Danny is the man, I can't take anything away from him,” the 32-year-old Doheny said after the fight.

After feeling each other out in the opening round a left hook from Roman dropped Doheny for a flash knockdown in the second frame. Doheny recovered to win the third round before the two-way action heated up in the fourth.

Roman came on strong in the middle rounds, stunning Doheny with a right cross and an uppercut. But the durable Irish southpaw, with blood trickling form his nose and swelling around his right eye, refused to wilt.

Doheny stormed back in the seventh frame, hurting Roman with a series of left cross and right hands. With Roman reeling around the ring, he lunged in to clinch but ended up on the canvas. Referee Raul Caiz Jr ruled it a slip.

“TJ connected with a good shot and I knew I shouldn’t exchange with him,” Roman said. “He’s a strong guy.”

Roman, 28, buckled Doheny’s legs with another well-timed uppercut in the ninth, but this only served to fire up the Irishman and initiated a fierce two-way exchange. The terrific action continued throughout the tenth before Roman was able to pull away in the eleventh, launching a vicious body assault that felled Doheny for the second time in the fight.

“Once I connected on two big body shots, I saw his conditioning going down and I jumped on it. I just kept it going,” said Roman.

In a show of defiance, Doheny climbed to his feet, spat some blood and somehow managed to survive the round.

“The body shots broke me down slowly,” Doheny admitted. “But I am an Irish fighter and we are warriors, so we stick around until the end.”

In a show of true grit and determination, Doheny went on to win the twelfth and final round, but ultimately it was too little, too late.

Doheny was gracious in defeat.

“First off, I want to congratulate Danny,” Doheny said. “Not just him but his whole team. He is a great fighter but even more than that, he is an absolute gentleman. So all the credit in the world to him.

“The plan was to become the unified champion but that didn’t happen. My second plan was to go to war and put on a show for Los Angeles and we did it.”

After the fight Roman reconfirmed his desire to unify all the major titles at 122-pounds.

“Give me [WBC champion] Rey Vargas,” Roman said. “I want the fight, we are two great champions. Let’s do it.”

After proving his class, Doheny said he would welcome the opportunity to avenge his first professional defeat.

“If there is a rematch on the cards, whatever I want to come straight back to the top,” Doheny said. “I don't want to be rebuilt. This is where I belong. We came up short tonight but I am still learning all the time and I think the best is yet to come.”