Wednesday, March 13, 2019

THE likelihood of Portlaoise hosting the nation’s biggest sporting event of the year became a little more realistic this week when the local GAA got “100%” behind the idea of a TJ Doheny title defence in O’Moore Park.

After the boxer voiced his desire for such a ‘fantasy’ in an interview with a local radio station, the Laois Nationalist approached county chairman Peter O’Neill to see how likely it might be.

“We’re 100% behind it … I mean, TJ’s Portlaoise born and bred, he played for Portlaoise, it’d be a massive thing for the town,” said O’Neill.

“He’d have to make an application (to central council), but it should be no hassle providing the ground … he’ll have to comply with the calendar, but the GAA won’t be a stumbling block,” he added.

“Anyway, it’d be excellent, it’d be great. He deserves every single bit of it,” said the county chairman.

“We’d be more than happy to facilitate him – whether it’s in O’Moore Park or Croke Park!”

His former coach Pat Ryan was also of the opinion that the likelihood of an O’Moore Park defence would be much stronger after the unification bout on Saturday 6 April.

“Of course he could, everything’s possible then,” he said.

“Eddie Hearn (TJ’s manager) could put it on here. It’d be enormous. You’d be maybe looking at a three-month period (after the April fight). You could have a July-August-September window where anything could happen,” he explained, before moving on to the detail that most intrigued him.

“The real prospect is to get the unification. To have a double world champion fighting in Portlaoise, who was born and raised in Portlaoise … it’d be a huge story,” said Mr Ryan.

For those who don’t know, 32-year-old TJ ‘The Power’ Doheny from Knockmay in Portlaoise is the undefeated IBF super bantamweight (54kgs) champion of the world, a title he won on 16 August last in Tokyo and defended successfully on 18 January in New York.

Not one to beat around the bush, he is putting his hard-earned belt on the line in his next fight, a unification bout with WBA champion American ‘Babyface’ Danny Roman (28).

This will take place in less than a month on the seventh anniversary of his pro debut and at the iconic home of the Lakers, The Forum in LA, and live on Sky TV.

This is a big step for the powerful southpaw, as he is only ranked sixth across the four belts (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) in a weight division that has seen the likes of Jeff Fenech, Wayne McCullough, Bernard Dunne, Manny Pacquaio and Carl Frampton succeed, but his 21-0 (15 x ko) record stands up well against that of his next opponent, who has tasted defeat twice in his 29 bouts.

The capacity of O’Moore Park is 24,500 – without seating on the field.

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By finian coughlan
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