By Bernard O’Neill
TJ ‘The Power’ Doheny could be in line for a Laois-Antrim IBF/WBA All-Ireland unifier with Ryan Burnett after dethroning a defending champion in Asia yesterday.
The Portlaoise man beat Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa on a unanimous decision — 115-113,116-112,117-112 — to claim the IBF super-bantam title at Korakuen Hall, where Jim McCourt won lightweight bronze for Ireland at the 1964 Olympics.
CompuBox had Doheny landing 159 of 604 punches, and 97 of 362 power shots, compared to 143 of 485 for Iwasa, including 105 of 281 power shots, with boxing analyst Teddy Atlas questioning the call on ESPN.
Olympic silver medallist Ken Egan hit back, saying that Atlas had called it wrong before: “He got it wrong in the Canelo fight. He called it Canelo and the rest of the world called it Golovkin.”
Egan added: “That just shows what he knows about boxing. It was some win for TJ, to go to Japan and win the title away from home, it is some achievement. It’s fairytale stuff and fair play to him.”
The three ringside judges were from Japan, USA, and Australia, with the Asian official, who is from Tokyo, marking the 12-rounder 115-113 to the Leinster southpaw.
The verdict was announced in Japanese, leading to a delighted but delayed reaction from Doheny and team led by coach Hector Bermudez.
Iwasa, who has fought so many times at the Korakeun Hall — yesterday’s defence was his 22nd at the venue — that there’s an argument for charging him rent, looked distraught after the result was announced and left the ring after a brief hug with his opponent, who trained in Boston for the bout.
The victory sees 31-year-old Sydney-based Doheny become the fourth Irish fighter after Burnett, Katie Taylor, and Carl Frampton, his ex-IABA high-performance teammates, to become a current world champion and the second Irishman after Wayne McCullough, who congratulated Doheny yesterday, to win a world crown in Japan in 1995.
Iwasa, who was on his second defence, edged the opening frames of a bruising all-southpaw battle which saw Doheny pick up nasty-looking cuts under both eyes in the second and fourth rounds.
Doheny’s pressure game intensified from the sixth round up, with the mandatory challenger walking down his 28-year-old opponent and regularly finding the target with head and body punches.
Iwasa, whose only three defeats have been to southpaws, looked slick and dangerous going down the final stretch, but unbeaten Doheny continued to detonate head and body shots en route to becoming a world champion in his 20th fight since turning pro after moving to Australia in 2012.
Burnett, the WBA super-bantam champion, or Ghana’s undefeated WBO titlists Isaac Dogboe could be next in a unifier, according to former Irish Athletic Boxing Association president Pat Ryan.
Moving up a weight to meet Frampton, who he beat in the last four of the 2006 Irish Elite Championships in Dublin, is also a possibility for the new IBF champion, although Iwasa is likely to call for a rematch.
“This win is the beginning of a new era and will open many doors. Behind one of those doors is the talented Ryan Burnett. TJ will know his next move after the dust settles. We are all absolutely thrilled for him after this magnificent victory,” said Ryan, who trained the new IBF champion all the way up from juvenile to elite in the amateur ranks at Portlaoise BC.