By Anthony Cocks
Undefeated Australian bantamweight Jason ‘The Smooth One’ Moloney 17-0 (14) laughs when asked if he has prepared for his world title shot against IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez 18-0 (12) any differently to his previous fights.
“I think it’s funny when people get to a world title shot and then ‘take things to another level’,” said the 27-year-old contender.
“I’ve prepared for every fight of my career like it was a world title fight and me and my team have a system that we follow which works. Why would I start changing things now?
“I am still making huge improvements every day and constantly striving to get better and better, but in terms of the preparation, that doesn’t change.”
Moloney jetted out to the United States three weeks ahead of his high-profile clash with Rodriguez in the quarterfinals of the hugely successful World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) this Saturday to allow himself plenty of time to acclimatise to the conditions and recover from jetlag.
It was a smart move by Team Moloney after witnessing other Aussie boxers travel stateside as little as nine days before a high profile bout.
“We came over here three weeks early to settle in and acclimatise,” said Moloney. “Obviously that came at a cost financially, but we are willing to do whatever it takes to give myself the best possible chance of winning this fight.
“I’m feeling fantastic over here and I’m confident that we will get the job done.”
The second season of the WBSS kicked off in earnest this month with Japanese powerhouse Naoya Inoue 17-0 (15) showing why he is the tournament favourite with a spectacular first-round KO of experienced former world champion Juan Carlos Payano 20-2 (9) at Yokohama Arena in Japan on October 7.
This past weekend South African Zolani Tete28-3 (21) travelled to Ekaterinburg, Russia to put paid to the chances of experienced amateur but professional novice Mikhail Aloyan 4-1 with a comfortable if unimpressive unanimous points victory.
The bookmakers got the results of these two fights correct. If they are to be believed again then Rodriguez is all but assured of a place in the semi-finals, with some betting agencies listing the tournament second-favourite as short as $1.06 to defeat Moloney at a whopping $7.50.
“I understand that coming into the competition, I am seen as an underdog,” said Moloney. “I haven’t yet achieved what some of the other fighters have achieved, but this is my opportunity. I’m looking forward to proving myself and showing the world what I’m capable of.”
Moloney, who has been favourite in all of his pro fights to date, says he is relishing the role of underdog.
“I love it. Proving people wrong is very enjoyable!” he said. “I’m happy to be quietly working away and getting ready to make a big statement.”
Moloney has breezed his way through his competition to date, losing just three rounds of the 79 professional rounds he has contested. In his last outing in May the Melbourne-born, Kingscliff-based boxer-puncher dominated former world titleholder Kohei Kono, dropping him and cutting him in the third before the ringside physician called off the fight at the end of the sixth due to the severity of the cut.
The moniker ‘The Smooth One’ is misleading. Moloney has an aggressive, come-forward style that is built behind an educated jab and backed up by excellent punch selection. Like his twin brother Andrew, a super flyweight contender who became the first man to stop former world champion Luis Concepcion last month, Moloney is a composed and calculated stalker with a versatile arsenal in attack.
If he can bring the sort of form he showed against Kono into the ring against Rodriguez, it promises to be a long night for the IBF champion.
The 26-year-old Rodriguez was in a similar position to Moloney when he travelled to the United Kingdom to face Paul Butler for the vacant IBF bantamweight championship in May. The 29-year-old Butler, a former IBF super flyweight champion who lost his belt to Tete, missed weight by a massive three-and-a-quarter pounds and looked sluggish and tentative from the opening bell, leaving himself open to the quality Puerto Rican’s power-punching attack.
Butler was down twice in the first round with Rodriguez’s favourite punch, the left hook, doing much of the damage. It was all one-way traffic from there. Two of the three official judges had Rodriguez pitching a shutout, while the third found two rounds to award to the man from Cheshire.
It was an impressive victory from Rodriguez, but one that Moloney believes flatters to deceive.
“We have watched that fight many times now and overall it was a good performance from Rodriguez, but we have taken a lot away from that fight and put together a great game plan,” Moloney said.
“Like most fighters, Rodriguez has his strengths and he also has his weaknesses. I obviously can’t go too far into our game plan but I really believe that if I follow our game plan that I will win this fight.
“You will just have to wait and see how we go about it. “