The Conlan Revolution has landed back at featherweight and now with his rabid fan base back in full support.

Overall in-ring action was lacking at times, but Michael Conlan found the way to get the job in a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over former junior featherweight titlist TJ Doheny. Scores were 116-111, 116-111 and 119-108 in favor of Conlan, who claimed the WBA “interim” featherweight title with the win Friday evening in front of Conlan’s hometown fans at Falls Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The highly anticipated matchup was slow out the gate, with little separating the two in the early rounds. Conlan boxed from the outside, working behind his jab while Doheny fought as if he was expecting to get hit with something big.

It took for that to occur for the fight to finally pick up steam.

Conlan grew increasingly confident and effective, connecting with left hands to the body and jabs upstairs. Any punch thrown by Belfast’s favorite son—a two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist—drew a rise out of the lively crowd, among the first permitted in Belfast since the pandemic with previous events fought behind closed doors.

A sequence late in round five provided plenty of cause for cheers, though not quite the final celebration. Conlan hurt Doheny—an Irish southpaw now based out of Australia—with a left hand to the body. The ensuing attack offered by the 29-year-old southpaw forced Doheny to take a knee for the bout’s lone knockdown. Conlan moved in to close the show, only for Doheny to pick up the pace and fight well enough to make it out of the bell and give hope for a fight to follow.

Doheny enjoyed perhaps his most effective sequence of the fight in the middle rounds. The crowd heavily in favor of Conlan did not bother the 34-year old Irish southpaw, who won the IBF junior featherweight title on the road in a twelve-round decision over Ryosuke Iwasa three years ago—nearly to the day—in Tokyo, Japan. One defense followed before losing to Los Angeles’ Daniel Roman in their scorcher of a title unification bout April 2019 in Inglewood, California.

Tuning out the chants in support of his opponent, Doheny dialed up the pressure in rounds seven and eight. The former titlist was able to time Conlan’s jab and work his way inside with straight left hands. Conlan’s knees briefly wobbled late in round eight, otherwise not showing signs of being hurt but indeed reminded that Doheny was in it for the long haul.

Conlan switched between southpaw and orthodox stance, enjoying success with the move as he landed a right hand to the body in the final minute of round nine. Doheny remained at close quarters though unable to cause much damage once there.

The momentum shift was not without its adversity. Conlan spent several rounds dealing with a bloodied nose, along with a nick over his right eye. Doheny gave the unbeaten featherweight something to worry about in round ten, landing a left hand that drove Conlan to the ropes. Conlan was able to block or dodge most of the incoming but wasn’t offering anything in return, which went a long way in bolstering Doheny’s confidence of the fight still being within reach.

Doheny continued to apply pressure in round eleven, with Conlan refusing to budge but also well aware of having to dig deep in order to turn the tide. That would come midway through the twelfth and final round, with Conlan—riding a wave of ‘Ole, ole, ole’ chants from the rabid crowd. Conlan connected with a right hook to the body, driving Doheny to the ropes though met with counter shots from the former champ. The two fought out of a clinch in the closing seconds, having to be separated by referee Howard Foster due to the crowd drowning out the bell to signal the end of the fight.

Both boxers embraced and paraded around the ring in celebration. In the end, it was cause for Conlan to party harder with the three judges ruling unanimously in his favor.

Conlan picks up an interim title in his return to featherweight, while improving his record to 16-0 (8KOs). Doheny falls to 22-3 (16KOs), with all three defeats coming in his last four starts. He entered the bout on the heels of a 17-month layoff following a stunning March 2020 loss to Ionut Baluta, whom Conlan barely outlasted in a brief foray at junior featherweight this past April at York Hall in Bethnal Green, England.

The bout aired live on ESPN+ in the United States.  

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox