The Portlaoise southpaw put his IBF super bantamweight on the line versus WBA titlist Danny Roman in a gruelling Fight of the Year contender at The Forum in Inglewood, losing a majority decision.
The DAZN and Sky Sports-broadcast fight was Doheny’s second since linking up with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions and the Irishman showed immense bravery and skill to climb off the canvas twice before being edged on the cards.
A flash knockdown in the second and a torrid eleventh, however, didn’t tell the full story, with Doheny having his man out on his feet in the seventh as the pendulum swung back and forward throughout.
While a further unification for Roman with WBC king Rey Vargas has been mooted, a rematch looks a no-brainer considering the war which has just transpired.
The fight, in Roman’s hometown, was in keeping with Doheny’s ambitious ‘road warrior’ approach. The Irishman went to Tokyo last August to dethrone Ryosuke Iwasa and claim the red belt which he successfully defended via eleventh-round stoppage versus Ryohei Takahashi in New York back in January.
Afterwards, with the bout having been mooted in the build-up, Doheny was cordially confronted in the ring by Matchroom stablemate Roman and the unification was quickly signed and sealed to play chief support to the big WBC super flyweight title rematch between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada.
Like the Laois puncher, Roman won his belt from the away corner in Japan, stopping Shun Kubo in Kyoto in September 2017. However, at this time, Cuban maestro Guillermo Rigondeaux held the organisation’s much-maligned ‘Super’ title and was considered the champion. ‘El Chacal’ was stripped after his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko in December 2017 and Roman has been considered champion since, with wins over Ryo Matsumoto, Moises Flores, and Gavin McDonnell in 2018.
While both were putting their belts on the line, Doheny was viewed as a massive 5/1 underdog to become Ireland’s fourth unified champion after Carl Frampton, Ryan Burnett, and three-belt queen Katie Taylor – and he almost did it, in the seventh round, only for Roman to roar back and win out on the cards.
Doheny settled very quickly and was able to time a number of clean southpaw left hands to take the opening round.
‘The Power’ walked Roman into a lovely uppercut at the start of the second stanza and would drive the Mexican-American across the ring with a straight left. Roman, however, was starting to close the distance and turned a 10-9 against into a 10-8 in his favour when he caght a back-peddling Doheny with a clean left hook and scored a flash knockdown.
Coach Hector Bermudez urged Doheny to keep his composure at the break and the Irishman boxed well in the third, landing the greater number of clean shots – although Roman did sink in some nice bodyshots.
Roman upped the pace in the fourth and shook Doheny up against the ropes and began to unload. The midlander looked to fight back and, bringing the action to the middle of the ring, threw down, trading big shots to the delight of the crowd.
The right eye of Doheny began to close over in the fifth but he continued to land accurate shots while the strong Roman chariot continued to roll forward.
‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’ had a veteran’s gameplan and continued to target the body through the sixth but the clean work of Doheny remained – before a strong finish from Roman that may have snuck him the round as we entered the second half of an absorbing fight.
Doheny made a breakthrough in the seventh, hurting Roman with a huge left. The WBA champion was in dire straights as Doheny leathered in shots, eventually forcing him down – correctly ruled a slip, much to the IBF champion’s displeasure. After a brief pause, in which Doheny was warned, the assault continued and while Roman hit back with some big swings of his own, he took a lot of damage over a potentially momentum-shifting few minutes.
Following the fireworks of the seventh, it was cagey in the eighth, Doheny boxing well as Roman recovered and then enjoying an eye-catching final few seconds himself.
A right hand to the chest at the start of the ninth slowed Doheny momentarily but the 32-year-old came back with big shots upstairs. The ebb and flow continued and it was the bloodied Doheny’s turn to bite down, a big uppercut causing him to squat down, almost keeling to the canvas but he would survive and fire back.
Back on his toes in the tenth, Doheny seemed tired while still landing a handful of classy shots as the fresher-looking 28-year-old Roman piled on.
Into the championship rounds, disaster loomed as Doheny was hurt to the body and then put down with another shot to the solar plexus. Face creased in pain and blood flowing freely, Doheny rose and got on his bike, grimacing through another seemingly innocuous bodyshot before wearing a huge right hand and somehow making the bell in an incredible show of heart.
The guts then turned to guile and it was cool and composed in the twelfth from Doheny who recovered quite remarkably, winning the stanza rather clearly as we went to the cards.
The tallies were split, with a 113-113 drawn card being overruled by a pair of 116-110s for Roman – an 8-4 verdict with two knockdowns perhaps being a bit harsh.
Irish-Boxing.com scored the bout 114-112 in favour of Roman.
A first career loss, Doheny drops to 21(15)-1(0) while the relentless Roman improves to 27(10)-2(0)-1.