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TJ Doheny reportedly turned down fight with Leo Santa Cruz

TJ Doheny will defend his IBF super bantamweight title next week following a surprising announcement – but the Portlaoise puncher, reportedly, could have been involved in an even more shocking fight.

Along with being confirmed as Matchroom and Eddie Hearn’s newest signing, ‘The Power’ will also defend his red belt for the first time on Friday January 18th at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

READ: TJ Doheny links up with Matchroom

Doheny [20(14)-0] will face a to-be-confirmed foe as he looks to build into massive fights later this year on his own terms having allegedly turned down a fight with three-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz [35(19)-1(0)-1].

ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael claimed yesterday that Doheny passed on the opportunity to step up in weight and challenge the WBA featherweight champion in Los Angeles on Saturday February 16th as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series.

Rafael wrote that “Doheny took the deal with Hearn but had been offered a deal to move up on weight class and challenge featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz on Feb. 16.”

Santa Cruz, who previously traded the title and wins with former Doheny amateur rival Carl Frampton, instead faces the unheralded Miguel Flores next month in a much-maligned bout which was announced way back in November.

Few, if any, would criticise Doheny, who is a relatively small bantamweight, for rejecting the chance to step up four pounds and take an away-corner opportunity versus Santa Cruz.

Following his sensational title win over Ryosuke Iwasa in August it initially looked as though the 32-year-old may embark on a series of lucrative fights in Japan.

Now, having linked up with Hearn, big unifications in America are in the pipeline – with WBA champ Daniel Roman and WBC titlist Rey Vargas also being aligned to the DAZN platform – as well as a potential all-Irish clash with Ryan Burnett.

With his new circumstances in mind – and indeed the situation he found himself in when he was apparently offered a fight with Santa Cruz, it looks to have been a wise decision for Doheny who also elected against a short-notice fight with Scott Quigg when he was a seven-fight prospect way back in 2014.

READ: TJ Doheny turned down short-notice fight with Scott Quigg


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie