August 16, 2018


Unbeaten Irish-born Aussie TJ Doheny (20-0, 14 KOs), 122, captured the IBF junior featherweight belt as he kept throwing more blows despite a laceration on the right cheek and the swollen left eye, and was awarded a close but unanimous decision (115-113, 116-112, 117-112) over Japanese defending champ Rysuke Iwasa (25-3, 16 KOs), 121.75, over twelve all-southpaw rounds on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. The tallies were as follows: Tony Maretta (Australia) 117-112, Jonathan David (US) 116-112 and Katsuhiro Nakamura (Japan) 115-113, all for the gutsy challenger. The third man was Mario Gonzalez (Argentina).

It was a bizarre fight because Japanese people are still arguing the verdict pro and con?despite the unanimous nod including the Japanese judgefs tally. Television commentators then supported Iwasafs victory, while knowledgeable experts including Sadao Yaoita (an uncrowned champ who inflicted the career-first setback to world flyweight titleholder Pascual Perez in a non-title bout in 1959) severely criticized Iwasafs less aggressive performance and admitted Dohenyfs triumph.

The opening session saw Iwasa, two inches taller and three years younger, connected with a southpaw right hook to the face, which had Dohenyfs legs almost buckled to indicate that it would be an easy payday for the champ. Furthermore, the Irish-blooded challenger sustained a gash under the right optic caused by an accidental butt, and kept streaming red ribbon.

The spectatorsf guess wasnft right as TJ wasnft an easy target but a determined Irish warrior regardless of his lack of finesse. Doheny, blood running down the cheek, kept throwing punches while Iwasa, making his second defense, remained cautious enough to probe the challengerfs fight plan. The champ was coping with the circling challenger with few sharp southpaw jabs, losing three rounds by a slight margin?according to the judgesf tallies.

In retrospect, we just wonder what his manager/trainer Celes Kobayashi, ex-WBA 115-pound titlist, thought of the processing of the contest then and there because Iwasa looked only content with throwing jabs without landing his trademark sharp lefts. All the judges scored 10-9 for Doheny in the sixth through ninth rounds. Iwasa, usually a stylish and smart champ, seemed to be behind on points even if it was so close.

TJfs awkward style coupled with his bloodied face didnft gave a good impression among the audience, but Doheny diligently collected point after point by a hairline margin.

Iwasa, formerly high school champ prior to his entry into the paid ranks in 2008, admitted his defeat, saying after the game, gI lost. Itfs a fact. I wasnft enough to win this bout.h If so, why not turned more aggressive to defend his belt? Due to his left hand pain? He seldom threw solid lefts, exclusively using just his right hand.

It was in round ten and eleven that Iwasa was in command with his aggressiveness. But his retaliation wasnft sufficient to overcome his deficits on point. The twelfth and final session saw Iwasa was obviously tired, while Doheny desperately showed a two-fisted attack despite a low precision to win the last point that confirmed his victory.

The newly crowned champ TJ, whose nationality is Australia, said, gI canft believe it. Itfs six years ago that I turned professional. Today itfs a close fight, but I thought I had shown enough to be called the winner.h

We truly wonder why Iwasa didnft throw more left hands, why more positively he didnft stalk the circling challenger and why he couldnft outmaneuver the less skillful challenger with his superior skills.

It was reminiscent of our national hero Fighting Harada upset by then unheralded Australian Lionel Rose here in 1968. Harada, who was disappointed at an unsuccessful negotiation with then highly regarded hard-puncher Jesus Pimentel (as Harada was very much willing to exchange gloves with the Mexican), wasnft what he used to be?in his fifth defense since he dethroned gGolden Bantamh Eder Jofre by an upset split duke in 1965.

Harada, a non-stop punching machine, didnft work well but was occasionally outspeeded and outlegged by the unknown substitute Australian. The ninth saw Harada hit the deck with Rosefs good right. Harada promptly jumped up and hit back a right hand to deck Rose. But the referee Toyama counted only against Harada, who apparently lost his composure and became too eager and tense to win back points. The final verdict was: 72-69, 72-70 and 72-72 by all-Japanese judges (including the scoring referee Toyama).

Iwasa lost to Doheny. We donft know what happened behind his forfeiture of the belt, but it might be true that Ryosuke couldnft show his best form. What Doheny demonstrated before the Japanese audience at the Korakuen Hall was his big heart. Congratulations.

Promoter: Teiken Promotions.

IBF supervisor: Anibal Miramontes (US).


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