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Dublin: 17°C Saturday 8 May 2021

'I don't know what to say, I'm so upset' - Doheny suffers shock defeat in Dubai

Portlaoise’s former world champion was beaten via unanimous decision by unheralded Romanian Ionut Baluta.

Doheny was shocked by the decision in Baluta's favour.
Doheny was shocked by the decision in Baluta's favour.

FORMER WORLD CHAMPION TJ Doheny received a major career setback on Friday evening as he suffered a shock defeat to unheralded Romanian Ionut Baluta in Dubai.

In what had been designed as a gear-up fight for a world-title charge later this year, the Portlaoise native never truly got motoring and was visibly stunned as he came out on the wrong end of an eight-round unanimous decision. The judges at ringside scored the contest 78-74 x2 and 77-74 in Baluta’s favour.

Former super-bantamweight champion Doheny, 33, drops to 22-2(16KOs), while in a victory which will transform his career, the 26-year-old Baluta moves to 13-2(2KOs).

Though Doheny was scarcely hurt by his low-key opponent at any stage, too many rounds slipped away from him while he struggled to nail down the elusive Baluta, who was frankly a nuisance throughout.

The Romanian’s fleet footwork and defensive tactics kepts him out of dodge for large spells, Doheny stalking him around the ring but failing to do much in the way of damage beyond a few thudding, trademark straight left hands which found their mark intermittently.

And though Baluta himself found mostly glove and shoulder when he picked his moments to attack, it was his output which caught the eyes of the judges.

Doheny, appearing frustrated, had a point deducted in a final round which was arguably his best, throwing Baluta to the floor as the younger fighter attempted to smother his work inside. From Doheny’s perspective, it seemed like a disaster to lose a point in such a close, eight-round fight.

But when Baluta’s hands were raised, it became apparent that the loss of a point was inconsequential to what was a wider verdict than one might have presumed they would to hear, and not necessarily unfairly so.

The shellshocked Doheny expressed frustration about Baluta’s tactics post-fight but the reality is that they were clever.

For the most part, however, his response to defeat was not dissimilar to any onlooking Irish boxing fan on Friday evening, in that it consisted mostly of bewilderment.

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Doheny1 Doheny was distraught in defeat.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” Doheny said. “Look, I was just getting going. I’m a 12-round fighter. If that had have been a 12-round fight, I would have gotten him out of there in the next few rounds. I was just starting to find my rhythm, starting to get to him, you know? He knew it was an eight-round fight so he just tried to survive, hit, run, and it was just a nightmare of a night.

I don’t know what to say — I’m absolutely devastated. I had so many big plans for this year and now, with this result, it sets me back. I just don’t know what to say.

“The referee wasn’t allowing any inside work which is where I was having success,” Doheny added. “I got a little frustrated and I tossed him on the ground as you could see. The rounds were so close. I thought, honestly — every fighter says they thought they were winning. When I heard the scorecards, I thought the scores were too wide for me not to win. That’s what I was thinking. Then, when they called his name, I was just like, ‘Wow.’ I dunno, it’s just one of those things.

“I was expecting to get eight rounds to set me up for the year, expecting to get some work. I can’t even call him a surprise package because I’m 10 times the fighter he is, but he just ran and spoiled and held, and it was one of those fights where the spoiler came out on top. And unfortunately, I had to be the one in there with him.

“I’m very, very, very disappointed. Honestly, I don’t know what to say, I’m so upset.”

A surprise defeat will, for now at least, put paid to Doheny’s world-title tilt in the latter half of the year.

The Laois man was nicely positioned to challenge WBC World super-bantamweight champion Rey Vargas [34-0, 22KOs] but now faces a rebuild and, if he can get it, a rematch with Baluta.

Earlier on the same bill in Dubai, Waterford’s Rohan Date impressed as he stopped Indonesia’s Rivo Kundimang [now 9-3-2, 5KOs] to move to 12-0-1 with nine knockouts, but there was disappointment for Dublin’s Steve Collins Jr [14-3-1, 4KOs] as he was disposed of inside a round by rising Australian star Mateo Tapia [now 12-0, 7KOs].

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