TJ Doheny closing in on world title fight as Japanese shock shakes up the field

There was a shock in Japan yesterday as IBF super bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni lost his world title in his first defence.

The Far East fighter had upset Jonathan Guzman to win the belt, and suffered a surprising loss himself to mandatory challenger and domestic rival Ryosuke Iwasa [24(16)-2(2)], being stopped in the sixth round in Osaka.

The succession of events could turn out to be good news for an Irish boxer. When the newest IBF rankings come out next month there is a good chance that, with Oguni dropping down and Iwasa becoming champion, Portlaoise fighter TJ Doheny [17(13)-0] will become the highest ranked fighter on the ladder.

On the most recent rankings, the #1 and #2 spots are empty, the now-champion Iwasa is #3, and Doheny is #4. Tomoki Kameda is #5 and the #6-ranked Diego De La Hoya fights former IBF bantamweight champ Randy Caballero on Saturday for the WBC-affiliated NABF title, so may also move up further – regardless though, Doheny is sitting pretty.

The IBF are notorious for their stringent adherence to their rules and according to the organisation’s handbook, champions must defend against their mandatory challenger within nine months of winning the belt, and again within another nine months, and so on, fitting optional defences against Top 15 opponents in between if they so wish.

The relevant passages in the handbook read.

1. Mandatory Defense Obligation
Each Champion so recognized by the IBF/USBA in his respective weight class from Mini Flyweight to Cruiserweight shall mandatorily defend his Championship within nine (9) months after its acquisition by him in a contest scheduled for twelve (12) rounds against a leading available contender as designated by the Championships Chairman.

Once this initial mandatory defense obligation has been satisfied, the Champion shall defend his championship within intervals of no more than nine (9) months against the leading available contender in his weight class as designated by the Championships Chairman.

Now, Doheny is not mandatory challenger technically. He would need to be ranked #1 for this (by defeating another Top 5 fighter over 12 rounds). The #1 and #2 positions are generally left unfilled at many weights with the IBF due to this condition, and the #3-ranked fighter regularly becomes a de-facto mandatory challenger.

This situation has occurred at bantamweight with Ireland’s only current world champ, Ryan Burnett, and Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez.

For Doheny, it has been a real waiting game over the last year or so. The Murphys Boxing man scored a ticking-over first round knockout in June, and scored another easy knockout the previous October.

The 30 year old southpaw is primed, waiting for his opportunity, and was an interested observer yesterday.

Doheny is keen to become the number one contender, which would most likely, going by the IBF’s rules, entail a bout against Diego De La Hoya or Tomoki Kameda. If neither of these two are available it would go down the next available fighter – which would mean the official #1 spot would not be on the line, but it could solidify the #3 spot for Doheny and ensure that he is the highest-ranked fighter in nine months time when Iwasa is required to face his ‘mandatory.’

‘The Power’ told that “everything stays the same regardless of who has the belt as the IBF are very strict on their mandatory rule.”

“So my plans stay the same, become the number one challenger and guarantee myself a crack at the title by next summer. We are just patiently waiting on word from the IBF.”

“We have been informed that a letter will be going out on the 15th of September to the next available ranked contender to face me in an elimination bout.”

“I was actually pencilled in to be fighting September 30th in Boston but we had to pull it as my promoter was in touch with them and they said I cannot have a fight scheduled when the fight is ordered or the shot goes to the next guy in line.”

The remainder of the current IBF Top 15 reads:
7 Genesis Servania (Philippines)
8 Evgeny Gradovich (United States)
9 Mike Tawatchai (Thailand)
10 Yonatan Guzman (Dominican Republic)
11 Yeajoon Kim (Republic Of Korea)
12 Ludumo Lamati (South Africa)
13 Jason Moloney (Australia)
14 Hidenori Otake (Japan)
15 Albert Pagara (Philippines)

gym trition

frayne carpentry

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: