Michael Conlan: I have the upmost respect for TJ Doheny, but I’ve got to beat him
Hugely popular Irish junior featherweight Michael Conlan will face battle-hardened former titleholder TJ Doheny in a scheduled 12-round contest at the Falls Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Friday.
Conlan (15-0, 8 knockouts) is fully aware of his compatriot’s quality and knows that victory is imperative if he is to secure a world title opportunity of his own.
“It’s a very tough fight, there’s no doubt about that,” Conlan told The Ring. “TJ’s a fantastic former world champion. He has heart, toughness, very good power, he’s a good counterpuncher, he’s showed it all in the pro game.
“He’s coming to get back to the top and I’m the quickest and best route for him to do that. For me, he’s the next guy on my path to being a world champion and I’ve got to beat him. I’m very confident, but I know I know this is a very, very hard fight.”
The 29-year-old former amateur standout is excited at the prospect of fighting at home in front of approximately 8,000 fans.
“This is the first big show in Belfast with fans [since the pandemic], it’s massive,” said Conlan, who is trained by Adam Booth in Surrey, England. “It’s our first time [fighting] against another Irishman – pride of the country on the line. I’ve seen people say it’s the biggest all-Irish fight for a long time. I’m really excited about. I’m all about creating history.
“I’ve got business against a very, very tough competitor, someone who’s coming to take my head off and get back to the top and I’m fully prepared for that. I know I have an answer for anything he does. I’ll be better in every department.”
Both fighters have been tested by Ionut Baluta in recent fights. In April, the gangly Romanian lost a narrow 12-round majority decision to Conlan and he claimed an eight-round points win over Doheny in March 2020.
“I don’t take anything from TJ’s last fight against Baluta,” said Conlan. “He went into it overconfident – lack of preparation – and he slipped up. I can’t read too much into that.
“This is his last hurrah, and I have the upmost respect for him, but I’ve got to beat him.”
While Conlan received some criticism for his own performance against Baluta, he felt it was unwarranted.
“I think it was the perfect fight at the perfect time,” he said. “People can criticize all they want, but I thought it was a clean win. I thought the scorecards were a bit stupid. I didn’t understand the scorecards because when you looked at the stats afterwards, he only landed 10-percent of his shots. I thought I won eight rounds to four, nine rounds to three.”
All going well against Doheny, Conlan expects to move on to the winner of the Stephen Fulton-Brandon Figueroa unification fight which is due to take place on September 11.
“The winner will be next whether it’s winter or St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t matter,” Conlan said. “I’ll have my eye on [Fulton-Figueroa], but I’ve got to keep my eyes fully on TJ first because he’s a very tough competitor.”
Doheny (22-2, 16 KOs) turned professional in 2012. The Australian-based Irishman came up the hard way, winning his first 19 outings before unseating Ryosuke Iwasa (UD 12) to become the IBF 122-pound titlist in August 2018. He stopped Ryohei Takahashi (TKO 11) in his first defense before losing to then-WBA titleholder Daniel Roman (MD 12) in a thrill-a-minute unification. After winning a comeback fight, Doheny surprisingly lost to Baluta.
Conlan vs. Doheny, plus undercard action, will be broadcast on ESPN+ in the U.S. The show will also be streamed live on FITE in the U.K. and in some European countries (coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. GMT)