LAOIS County Council is backing a bid to stage a TJ Doheny world title fight at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
The council says it would give its full support to the proposed event and would hold meetings with any interested groups if required.
The positive response from the local authority came at the latest meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District, in reply to a request from cllr Noel Tuohy. The Labour councillor proposed that the county council “supports in whatever way it can the possibility of hosting TJ Doheny in a world title fight in Portlaoise, and if possible in O’Moore Park”. The proposal was seconded by cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.
Acting director of services Michael Rainey confirmed that the county council would give its support to such an event. He said the council was also willing to “meet interested bodies to discuss their requirements” in relation to an event featuring world champion boxer and Portlaoise native TJ Doheny.
Predicting that the bout would be “a super event” for the town, cllr Tuohy said: “TJ is the undefeated IBF super bantamweight champion. He is the best on the planet, he is one of ours and it would be a fantastic event for Portlaoise.”
Cllr Tuohy also paid tribute to former IABA president and TJ’s former coach Pat Ryan of Portlaoise Boxing Club, who he said has done Trojan work for years without any credit. He commented: “TJ says he couldn’t have done it without Pat Ryan. People involved in this seldom get the credit they deserve and Pat Ryan certainly deserves it. I would see this event as a tribute to him as well. He is a brilliant character.”
Cllr Tuohy added that O’Moore Park was an appropriate venue and that the GAA was “a wonderful organisation that is seldom found wanting”.
Cllr Dwane Stanley described TJ Doheny as an inspirational figure, not only for Portlaoise but particularly for his native area of Knockmay. She recalled the pride of Knockmay people when the 32-year-old went around the streets with his world champion’s belt at the civic reception in Portlaoise last year.
Cllr Pauline Madigan said she had the pleasure of getting to know TJ’s family over the past few months and they had “a lovely way about them”, while cllr Catherine Fitzgerald described the champion boxer as an extraordinary man. Cllr Fitzgerald added: “All of us would love to see this event happening in Portlaoise.”
Cllr John Joe Fennelly interjected: “And don’t forget that TJ’s father came from Forest in Mountrath!”
The idea of Portlaoise hosting such a major title fight was first mooted last month, when TJ told a radio interviewer that his ‘fantasy’ would be a title defence in O’Moore Park, whose capacity is 24,500 without seating on the field.
As reported in the Laois Nationalist on 12 March, Laois GAA chairman Peter O’Neill said the organisation would be “100% behind” such an event, which would be “a massive thing” for the town.
In the meantime, TJ has bigger fish to fry. He will become only the fourth Irish boxer in history to attempt to unify world titles when he challenges WBA champion Danny Roman in Los Angeles on Friday 26 April.
His former coach Pat Ryan said the likelihood of an O’Moore Park defence would be much stronger after the unification bout. Speaking to the ***Laois Nationalist*** last month, Mr Ryan 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.
“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.”