By Anthony Cocks
Australians have had a tough run of luck on the world stage of late with many ‘brave but outclassed’ performances seemingly defining the Aussie fighting spirit.
But top 10 world-ranked super flyweight Andrew ‘The Monster’ Moloney 17-0 (10) is looking to turn that perception around when he takes on former world champion Luis ‘El Nica’ Concepcion 37-6 (26) in a WBA world title eliminator over 10 rounds at the new Bendigo Stadium in the regional centre of Bendigo, Victoria on September 8.
A win will put Moloney in the box seat to challenge WBA 115-pound champion Khalid ‘Kal’ Yafai 24-0 (15) within the next 12 months.
Moloney readily admits it can sound redundant for boxers to claim they’ve had their best training camp ever for fight but insists that his preparation this time around has lifted him to new heights.
“We are taking this fight very serious as we know that Concepcion is an excellent fighter himself and we’re expecting a very tough fight from him,” said the 27-year-old twin brother of undefeated bantamweight Jason Moloney.
“We’ve basically just taken everything to the next level for this training camp. We’ve flown over four international sparring partners for this camp, so we’ve got two guys out here from the Philippines, one from Tanzania and one from Indonesia. They’ve all got a pretty similar style to Concepcion, they’ve given me some great sparring to ensure I’m ready for the toughest fight of my career.”
Moloney, who was born and bred in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham but moved to Kingscliff on the NSW north coast 18 months ago to train under the auspices of Angelo Hyder, has been brought along superbly by his manager Tony Tolj and promoter Lynden Hosking.
Each step has been calculated to get him to the next level and he now finds himself on the cusp of a world title shot, providing he can get past the wily WBA number five ranked veteran.
But his development hasn’t all been smooth sailing. In his last fight in May against Filipino former world title challenger Richard ‘Explosive’ Claveras 18-5-2 (15) the Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medallist found himself on the seat of his pants in the seventh round when he was hit with a counter right-cross while going in for the kill in a fight he was dominating. Another Filipino, Raymond Tabugon, dropped him in similar circumstance in the third round of their August 2017 clash.
It’s the type of mistake Moloney won’t be able to afford against a world-class operator like Concepcion.
“I’ve watched quite a lot of Concepcion, even before he was one of my opponents,” Moloney said. “He has always been one of the biggest names around the super flyweight division and I always keep an eye on the top guys in my division to see where I’m at and what the rest of the competition is like.
“No doubt he always comes to fight 100% and always puts a lot of pressure on his opponents and throws a lot of punches and has really good stamina. He tends to be throwing the same amount of punches in the later rounds as he does in the start of the fight.
“He also seems to have a pretty decent punch on his and has quite a lot of knockouts. I’m expecting a really tough fight from him.
“The one thing he really lacks is his defence. He tends to sort of be offensive-minded and can be countered quite easily and the plan is, without giving too much away, is just to box him and find those openings while he’s punching and just land the better shots and just outbox him, basically.”
Undefeated WBA champion Yafai has long been the target for WBA number four ranked Moloney, whose team had sought to make a fight with higher-ranked boxers but none of them accepted.
“We did actually try to get a fight will all the guys above me to push for a world title eliminator but they all basically took easier fights or didn’t seem to be interested in the fight. So Concepcion was the highest ranked boxer we could get who was available,” said Moloney.
Concepcion is accustomed to fighting on the road. The 32-year-old Panamanian won the WBA 115-pound title with a 12-round unanimous decision against the experienced Kohei Kono in Japan two years ago. He lost his crown on the scales after failing to make weight ahead of his first title defence against Birmingham’s Yafai at Manchester Arena in England four months later. The 29-year-old Yafai won a wide points decision and has successfully defended the title three times since.
Moloney is well aware that a knockout of Concepcion – who has only ever been stopped by Hernan Marquez in world title fights at 112-pounds – will make the boxing world sit up and take notice.
“He was the last world champion before Yafai, he won the world title off Concepcion,” explained Moloney. “So I’m pretty confident that with me being victorious against Concepcion that should put me next in line for a shot at Kal Yafai and, as you mention, that’s a fight I’ve wanted for a long time now and a fight I believe I can win. So yeah, I’m really excited for this and what’s to come after being victorious.”
Before making the move to train with Hyder – who has coached world titleholders Vic Darchinyan, Danny Green and Sakio Bika – Moloney was competing as a bantamweight while twin brother Jason was a division north in 122-pound weight class.
The ultra-competitive Moloney laughs off the suggestion that if could’ve been him rather than his brother competing in the second season of the wildly successful World Boxing Super Series which will feature the bantamweights this year.
“He owes me a big thank-you for that, I think!” he laughed. “Well, that was the time we starting training with Angelo Hyder. We sort of changed out training regime quite a bit and both started making the weight a little bit too comfortably and decided we could both move down a division and I think that was the best move we could’ve made for our careers. I feel really good at super flyweight and Jason the same at bantamweight and we’ve both just gone from strength to strength.
“As it turns out that those are two of the hottest divisions right now, so I think it was a great move. I feel great at super flyweight and I think it’s where I’ll be for most of my career, if not all of my career. I’m sure Jason is the same at bantamweight and I think it was the right move.”
The Moloney-Concepcion fight will take place at the newly redeveloped 4,000 seat Bendigo Stadium in the former goldmining settlement of Bendigo, a large regional centre with a rich fighting history.
It was on these central Victorian goldfields where the longest fight in recorded history took place when Irishman James Kelly outlasted Englishman Jonathan Smith in a bout that continued for an astonishing 6 hours and 15 minutes at the Fiery Creek diggings on 3 December 1855.
And it doesn’t hurt that the former gold-rush settlement was indirectly named after famed English bareknuckle boxer William Abednego Thompson.
In a more recent connection to Bendigo boxing ‘Battle on the Goldfields 3’ will be promoted by Atlanta Olympian and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lynden Hosking who hails from the region.
It will be Moloney’s first pro bout in country Victoria but he is familiar with the town and its history.
“I haven’t fought in Bendigo but I went up to watch one of Lynden’s earlier shows in Bendigo,” said Moloney. “I’m really looking forward to it. The new stadium looks really impressive from what I’ve seen.
“I know the Bendigo town really gets behind the events and the boxing in particular and yeah, I’m looking forward to fighting there in front of a big crowd and I’ve got a whole lot of people coming to support me as well, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
A dominant victory on the historic goldfields of Bendigo would go a long way to restoring Australia’s wounded pride on the international boxing stage.