TJ Doheny, cheered on by a passionate group of Irish fans who made the trip to Tokyo, upset Ryosuke Iwasa to win a junior featherweight world title on Thursday at Korakuen Hall.
Although blood was running down his face from cuts under both eyes and he seemed to fade over the final few rounds, mandatory challenger Doheny was awarded a unanimous decision in a fight that streamed live in the United States on ESPN+.
Judge Tony Marretta, of Australia, scored the fight 117-112, American judge Jonathan Davis had it 116-112 and Japan's Katsuhiko Nakamura had it 115-113.
Japan's Iwasa, who was making the second defense of the 122-pound world title he won by sixth-round knockout of countryman Yukinori Oguni in September 2017, fell to 19-2 at Korakuen Hall.
Doheny suffered a gash under his right eye in the first round. The blood trickled down his face for the rest of the fight as his corner was never able to get the cut under control. Despite the blood, Doheny was very aggressive against the taller fellow southpaw Iwasa through the first half of the action-packed fight.
Doheny (20-0, 14 KOs), 31, then suffered a cut under his left eye in the fourth round as they slugged it out primarily in the center of the ring with a series of heavy exchanges. Doheny was born in Ireland, lives in Australia and trains in Boston.
Iwasa (25-3, 16 KOs), 28, landed many good body shots, but Doheny continued to bull forward as the Irish fans in the crowd cheered. By the ninth round, Doheny appeared exhausted as Iwasa landed many clean punches and had seemingly taken over the fight. In the 11th round, they stumbled to the canvas when they tripped over each other in a clinch.
When Doheny was announced as the winner, he and his team appeared shocked for a moment, but when they realized he had won, they celebrated.
According to CompuBox statistics, Doheny landed 159 of 604 punches (26 percent) and Iwasa connected with 143 of 485 shots (29 percent).
Doheny, nicknamed "The Power," won a split decision against Thailand's Mike Tawatchai in a title eliminator in December in Bangkok to earn the title shot and was on the road again for his first world title opportunity.
Hector Bermudez, Doheny's trainer, previously trained Jonathan Guzman, who lost the title to Oguni in an upset on Dec. 31, 2016. Oguni then lost the belt to Iwasa, and Bermudez had proclaimed that Doheny was coming to Tokyo to reclaim the belt their team had lost there.