Portlaoise Boxer TJ Doheny in action.
Portlaoise boxer TJ Doheny will take another step towards a shot at the world title this June Bank Holiday weekend, as he fights Indonesian Espinos Sabu in Sydney.
Having started out boxing as a seven year old under the tutelage of Pat Ryan in St Mary's Hall, Doheny has been on quite a journey ever since. After learning his craft in Portlaoise, a raft of underage boxing titles followed throughout his teenage years, and he was widely touted as a future Olympian.
That was the goal for Doheny, but after losing out on his chance to go to the Olympic Qualifiers to John Joe Nevin back in 2008, he decided he needed time away from the sport. To take that break, he headed for Australia, and sure enough the next chapter of his career would soon begin.
After twelve months away from competition, he realised two things. One, was how much he missed it, and two, was how much he loved Australia. He decided to stay in Sydney for the long-term and duly resumed his boxing career, first as an amateur, before then turning pro five years ago.
He has since won the Pan Asian Boxing Association's Super Bantamweight title, and is closing in on the top of the IBF world rankings in that weight division. The reigning IBF champion is Japanese fighter Yukinor Oguni, and TJ has his sights set firmly on him.
“I'm currently ranked number four by the IBF” said Doheny when we caught up with him recently.
“I'm in the box seat for a world title eliminator. All going well, something will happen before Christmas.”
His fight this weekend is not necessarily key to those hopes, as he needs the bout to get some of his rhythm back. The last few months have been fairly hectic for Doheny, as he spent three months back in Ireland around Christmas after his mother was injured in a car crash. On top of that, his partner gave birth to their baby son, Theo, a few weeks ago in Australia.
That wouldn't be a major issue if he was still fighting out of Oz, but he's currently based in America, as he moved over to take the next step in his career. If you're keeping count, that's commitments on three continents he's had to look after over the last six months, while also keeping himself in top condition for his upcoming bouts, so it's probably fair to say he's a busy man these days!
“I signed up to a promoter called Murphy's Boxing in America, and I'm pretty much based out of Boston now” said Doheny. “My son was born a few weeks ago so I'm back in Australia now, so after this fight (against Sabu) I'll be heading back over there.”
It has been a rollercoaster time for Doheny over the last nine years, after he left Ireland to initially take that break from boxing. “I moved to Australia in 2008, initially for a year, but I ended up staying.
“I had just been beaten to go to the Olympics qualifiers by John Joe Nevin, and I wanted to take a year out, I felt like I had fallen out of love with boxing. I was out of the sport for about twelve months, and then I started back boxing, first as an amateur, and then I turned pro in 2012.”
The decision to turn pro proved to be the correct one, as he has been climbing up the ranks ever since. He is unbeaten in sixteen fights, boasting a 16-0 record, twelve of them coming by knockout. He means business, and he has been picking off those ranked above him at a steady clip as he closes in on his dream of a world title fight.
“After the fight on June 2nd, I'll be back in Boston by mid June” Doheny reveals, as he outlines his plans for coming months. “I'll start to ramp up the training then. I moved to Boston to train with Hector Bermudez, and I'm improving all the time. He was the main reason I decided to move to Boston, to train with him, because I knew he'd bring me to the next level.”
Along with the training, Doheny gets world-class sparring in Boston too, and it has made all the difference. With everything firing on all cylinders, he has a clear plan on what his future holds. “I'm hoping in six months to have the eliminator, and then six months after that to fight for the IBF title. If I win the eliminator, I become the mandatory challenger then.”
That eliminator will be against another Japanese fighter, Ryosuke Iwasa, and the outcome of that will determine where Doheny's career goes from here.
It has been quite the adventure so far, and even though he has made his name in the professional ranks far away from home, he still feels the support from Portlaoise and Ireland wherever he goes. “There is a massive Irish community in Sydney, and they are very good to Irish fighters, every time I fight they are out in force.
“One of my main sponsors, COG, have a Portlaoise man working for them, Fran Roche, which is great for me as well.
“Portlaoise will always be home for me, I try to get back a few times a year, and it will always have a special place in my heart.”
Keep an eye out for TJ the next time he does make it back to Portlaoise, because he could be sporting a very impressive belt when he does.