TJ Doheny with his coach, Hector Bermudez, and Sean Gibbons, after defeating Ryosuke Iwasa. Pic: Aflo/Rex/Shutterstock
*This article was originally published on the Leinster Express on August 21, 2018
The IBF Superb Bantamweight belt was awarded after the fight, but the title that comes with it - World Champion - is not the product of a single night's work.
It's what you get after a sustained, determined, single-minded obsession earns you the chance to realise your dreams, and you've done everything you need to make those dreams come true.
The dream of being a world champion takes root in childhood, but only a chosen few can maintain it through the years, tend to it, and no matter what life throws at you, keep that dream in focus.
For TJ Doheny, that's exactly what happened last Thursday night in the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Meeting a reigning champion in his home country, at a venue where he's fought 25 of his 28 professional bouts, could have been too much to bear, but Doheny survived. Scratch that, he didn't
I want to embrace this moment so I can remember every last bit of it and enjoy every minute of it.
survive, he thrived.
When we caught up with him on Monday, the enormity of what he'd achieved was finally sinking in. “I know I had to do some posts on social media, but since the fight I've just been sitting back and trying to take it all in, I want to embrace this moment so I can remember every last bit of it and enjoy every minute of it.
“I've been with my family for the last few days and just taking it all in, it's been an unbelievable feeling. It's great to be able to finally realise my dream and what I set out to do.”
Despite this being Doheny's first ever chance to fight for a world title, the occasion never affected him. “Right up until the first bell went, it didn't faze me at all, I was so confident in my preparation and in what I was doing in camp that I just knew this guy hadn't got a chance to beat me.
“On paper, he has been in the bigger fights, he's a world champion and he's beaten a world champion, so on paper, yeah I was probably the underdog, but in terms of skill and ability, and anybody that would know boxing.
“That was 50/50, or even 60/40 in my favour, so that's why I wasn't really nervous and was so calm and collected, and just took everything in my stride.”
A cut under the right eye in the first round could have derailed Doheny's hopes, but he weathered the storm from that and came back stronger. “The first round, I was winning up until the final minute, and when I got the head-clash it probably threw me off a little bit and he caught me with a right hook.
“That's what would have won the round for him, because he scored the most meaningful shots in the round, but up until then I was cruising, I was winning the round so it didn't faze me, I just went back to the corner and came back out and started again, got into a good rhythm in Round 2 and Round 3.
“There was a couple of close rounds that you could give to him, but I think the judges got it fairly spot on. Probably the Japanese judge got it the closest, I probably won it by two or three rounds.”
All three judges scored Doheny the winner, with the Japanese judge scoring it to Doheny 115-113. The stats backed it up too, with Compubox stating that TJ landed 159 punches to Iwasa's 143.
My mother, fair play to her, a woman who is after being through a lot over the last two years, made her way to Tokyo on her own, I couldn't believe it.
Having launched his pro career in Australia, Doheny has had to live, fight and train thousands of miles from home. While that means his family misses days like last Thursday, he did get one special visitor to Tokyo before the fight. “I've been speaking to them all (his family), and they are all very proud of me.
“I would have loved to have them out there with me but flying to Tokyo would have cost them thousands of euro, so I couldn't expect anybody to pay that kind of money.
"My mother, fair play to her, a woman who is after being through a lot over the last two years, made her way to Tokyo on her own, I couldn't believe it.
“It was a little bit of a surprise, I came out of my hotel room and there she is in the hallway with her little crutch. I said to her, 'How did you make it Tokyo!', the poor woman can barely make it up the stairs and she comes the whole way to Tokyo to watch me fight... a mother's love, there's nothing going to stop them.”
The southpaw now has two weeks off before he returns to training, with a potential defence of title being penciled in for later this year. “I have a couple of weeks off now and then we'll start plotting the next move, we're hoping to get out some time before the end of the year for the first defence, that's the plan.”
With the belt now in his possession, Doheny wasn't about to let it skew his perspective or allow grandiose notions to cloud his mind. He knew exactly how he'd gotten to this point in life, and who has helped him to get here.
“I just want to express my gratitude to everybody involved in making this thing happen, this world title fight is not only mine, it belongs to everybody, my team, my coaches, my fans and most importantly my family for their love and support all the way through my career, and it pushed me to go and win this belt.
Read also: PICTURES - High drama in Kavanagh's as TJ Doheny's family watch his world title fight unfold