Junior featherweight world titlist Ryosuke Iwasa's defense against mandatory challenger TJ Doheny will be available live in the United States on Thursday morning.
As part of its new seven-year deal with ESPN, Top Rank acquired the American rights to the 122-pound world title fight and announced on Tuesday that the fight will stream live on ESPN+ from Korakuen Hall, where Iwasa has boxed 20 times, in Tokyo. Coverage begins at 6:45 a.m.
Iwasa (25-2, 16 KOs), 28, of Japan, will be making the second defense of the belt he won by sixth-round knockout of countryman Yukinori Oguni in September 2017. Iwasa made his first defense by unanimous decision against the Philippines' Ernesto Saulong on March 1.
Next up is the mandatory fight against fellow southpaw Doheny (19-0, 14 KOs), 31, who is from Ireland and fights out of Australia.
In December, Doheny, nicknamed "The Power," won a split decision against Thailand's Mike Tawatchai in a title eliminator in Bangkok to earn the title shot and stayed busy with a second-round knockout of Mike Oliver on March 17 in Boston.
Top Rank promotes junior featherweight world titlist Isaac Dogboe (19-0, 13 KOs), of Ghana, who will defend his belt for the first time against Japan's Hidenori Otake (31-2-3, 14 KOs) in the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN co-feature on Aug. 25 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. According to Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, one of the reasons the company pursued the fight between Iwasa and Doheny was to give them American exposure ahead of a potential unification fight between Dogboe and the winner of Thursday's fight.
"The fact that Dogboe fights the following week on ESPN, and that he is promoted by (longtime Top Rank ally) Mr. (Akihiko) Honda, makes for a natural unification bout -- hopefully in 2019," Moretti said.
Doheny arrived in Japan on Tuesday, when trainer Hector Bermudez pronounced him ready for the fight. Bermudez previously trained Jonathan Guzman, who lost the title to Oguni in an upset on Dec. 31, 2016. Oguni then lost the belt to Iwasa.
"We've come here to win back the belt Guzman once held," Bermudez said.
Iwasa-Doheny is one of numerous fights that will stream on ESPN+ under the network's deal with Top Rank. Under the new deal, which began this month, there will be 54 live events per year, including 18 cards on ESPN, all of which will have the undercards available in their entirety on ESPN+, such as Saturday night's Bryant Jennings-Alexander Dimitrenko card. In addition, there will be another 12 Top Rank-promoted cards per year on ESPN+ and 24 more international events, such as Iwasa-Doheny, available in the United States on the streaming service.
Previously, ESPN+ has streamed international fights such as Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan-Phil Lo Greco, Naoya Inoue's bantamweight world title victory over Jamie McDonnell, Martin Murray's win over Roberto Garcia, junior lightweight world titlist Miguel Berchelt's defense against former titlist Jonathan Victor Barros and Tevin Farmer's vacant junior lightweight title win over Billy Dib.
There have also been Top Rank-promoted cards exclusively on ESPN+, including Terence Crawford's step up to welterweight to win a world title from Jeff Horn, Masayuki Ito's action-packed decision over Christopher Diaz to win a vacant junior lightweight belt and a junior bantamweight world title doubleheader on which Jerwin Ancajas and Khalid Yafai retained their titles.
Among the upcoming Top Rank on ESPN+ fights are middleweight Ryota Murata's bout in Las Vegas on Oct. 20 and the tentative return of pound-for-pound king and lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko on Dec. 1, probably in a world title unification fight with the winner of the Ray Beltran-Jose Pedraza fight that headlines the Aug. 25 card.
There are other international fights also penciled in to steam on ESPN+, including one that will take place on Sept. 8 in Bendigo, Australia, where junior bantamweight contenders Andrew Moloney and Luis Concepcion will meet.