By Anthony Cocks
When WBA #9 and IBF #12 bantamweight Jason The “Smooth One” Moloney 15-0 (12) steps into the ring against Immanuel Naidjala 23-4-1 (13) for Punches at the Park 7 at the St Kilda Town Hall on 24 February there will be more than just the Commonwealth title on the line.
Victory will see the Melbourne-born, Kingscliff-based 27-year-old make history along with his twin brother Andrew as the only the second pair of brothers – and first twins – to hold Commonwealth titles simultaneously, joining junior middleweight contender Troy Waters and light heavyweight contender Guy Waters – who both challenged for major world titles three times apiece – in this exclusive club.
The Commonwealth title, previously known as the British Empire title, was seen as an important stepping stone for Aussie boxers with world title aspirations in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s but seemed to fall out of favour.
But in recent years the Commonwealth crown has come back into vogue, with Aussie boxers Lucas Browne, Anthony Buttigieg, Kris George, Zac Dunn and Andrew Moloney all holding the colourful 60 year old title at various times in the past few years. At bantamweight, Australian former world champions Jimmy Carruthers and Lionel Rose have held the title, as well as skilful former world title challenger Paul Ferreri, a fact that is not lost on Moloney.
“Fighting for the Commonwealth title is a huge opportunity for me and it will be an absolute honour to hold the same title as these legends you have just mentioned,” said Moloney, who is also ranked at number five by the WBO at super bantamweight.
“Becoming Commonwealth champion will be a great achievement and is something which I will be very proud of. Winning this title and beating a very solid opponent like this is a very important step in the progression of my career and will hopefully open the doors to some big fights.”
Despite coming off a brace of losses, his opponent for the title is no mug.
Namibia’s Naidjala, who goes by the moniker “The Prince”, came up short on points in his two contests in 2017. That pair of losses were to former world title challenger Siboniso Gonya and world rated Mzuvukile Magwaca, both of South Africa. Naidjala, who was ranked WBO #6 when he lost a world title bid to then-unbeaten Japanese WBO bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda in 2013, will be looking for a change of luck against Moloney.
“Naidjala has only been beaten be very good opposition and no one has ever managed to beat him inside the distance including a world champion, Kameda,” said Moloney, who will also be defending his WBA Oceania title against the Southwest African.
“I’ve been working very hard in the gym with my coach Angelo Hyder and really making some big improvements. I believe we will win this fight in impressive fashion and will show that we belong among the best bantamweights in the world.”
For this training camp Moloney has enlisted some larger sparring partners including Sydney lightweight Billel “Babyface” Dib 21-2 (10) – not to be confused with former IBF world champion Billy “The Kid” Dib 43-4 (24) – and WBO #9 ranked featherweight Luke “Action” Jackson 15-0 (6), who headlines a show at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino in Tasmania on 2 March.
“Yes, I’ve been doing some great rounds with Billel Dib and I’m currently down in Hobart getting some more great work with Luke Jackson,” said Moloney. “We are taking this fight very seriously so we are making sure that I get the best sparring possible to ensure I’m 100% ready on February 24.”
The 33-year-old Namibian comes into the fight with a substantial height and reach advantage. At 172cm tall and a reported reach of 177cm, Moloney will be markedly shorter than his opponent but insists that the deficit won’t be any cause for concern.
“I don’t see his height or reach advantage causing me too much trouble,” said Moloney. “I have fought and sparred plenty of guys taller than me and it’s never been much of a problem.”
A win over the tough Naidjala will be a feather in Moloney’s cap, but a knockout victory over “The Prince” will be the icing on the cake.
“Winning is the number one priority,” said Moloney. “If you go out and look for the stoppage then generally it won’t come. I just plan on going out and dominating the fight from start to finish. As long as I have my hand raised at the end that’s all that matters, the knockout is always just the cherry on top.”
Last year the Moloney twins took a working holiday to the USA where they took in the Super Fly tripleheader at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, California and the undisputed middleweight championship fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Between these two events they managed to get in some quality sparring against the likes of former four-division world champion Nonito Donaire and popular pound-for-pound claimant Vasyl Lomachenko.
According to Moloney, there’s very little difference between the way the Americans prepare and the way they currently run their camp out of their base at Kingscliff on the New South Wales north coast.
“The sparring that is available over there is priceless and no doubt that lifts you to another level, but they don’t do anything special that we don’t do,” said Moloney. “I think Angelo Hyder is definitely among the best coaches in the world. Our training regime, our relationship and the improvements both Andrew and I are making is phenomenal.”
Now firmly entrenched in the top 15 of three of the four major sanctioning bodies, a world title shot could be just a phone call away. But Moloney knows that one false move could send him to the back of the queue and he wants to make the opportunity count when it comes his way. He plans on being world champion for some time.
“If it was up to me as the fighter then of course I would take it, that’s my dream to become world champion,” said Moloney. “However, I have full faith in my team (Tony Tolj and Angelo Hyder) and their guidance. Whenever they think I am ready, we will grab that opportunity with both hands.
“Once we have that title we plan to remain world champion for a long time. I feel like I have improved so much in the last six months so I am really excited to think how much better I’ll be in another six months’ time.”
The ultimate goal for Moloney is to fight for a world title on the same card as his twin brother Andrew. It has been a long-time dream for both lads.
“Yes, winning world titles and defending world titles together on the same shows would be very special,” said Moloney. “It’s certainly something we hope will be possible in the near future.”
Moloney knows that if he keeps up his winning ways, a shot at world championship glory is just around the corner.
“Ideally, I would finish 2018 with a world title strapped around my waist, for me that would be a dream come true,” said Moloney. “If that doesn’t happen this year then I would like to finish the year having beaten some very solid opposition, ranked very highly in all the sanctioning bodies and ready to take on the world in 2019.
“As I said I feel as though I’ve been making some big improvements over the last six months, I’m really enjoying my boxing and I’m excited to see how much better I’ll be in another six-to-twelve months’ time.”
ROHAN MURDOCK TROUNCES FRANKIE FILIPPONE IN TEXAS
Super middleweight contender Rohan Murdock 22-1 (16) lived up to his nickname and showed “No Mercy” to Norfolk, Virginia southpaw Frankie Filippone 24-7-1 (8), twice sending him to the canvas before his corner stepped in to stop the bout at the end of the fourth round of a scheduled eight at the Bank of America Center in Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday night.
Competing outside Australia for the first time in his seven year pro career, WBO #12 Murdock overcame an anxious start to take control in the third round before putting his opponent away in the fourth.
“I did some silly stuff that if I did it with another opponent, I wouldn’t have got away with it,” admitted Murdock after the fight.
Trainer Chris Carden from Nerang’s Platinum Boxing Club agreed.
“A couple of times he got caught staying there too long instead of changing position, but that’s part of the experience and why we are here so we need to make those adjustments,” Carden said.
The 25-year-old from Queensland’s Gold Coast settled down by the third round as his sharper punches shined through.
“I knew I could take his power and it wasn’t going to affect me. I started to load up which I shouldn’t have done but I got the win in the end so happy with that,” said Murdoch, who was facing just his second southpaw in 23 professional contests.
Murdock took full control in the fourth round, hitting Filippone with hard shots from both hands. A left rip to the liver followed by an uppercut sent him to the deck for the first time, while a flurry of punches punctuated by a right uppercut had him on the canvas for a second time in the round.
With his eyes already puffy, the game and crafty 37-year-old wobbled back to his corner and did not come out for the fifth round.
“To make someone quit on the stool, that’s pretty much the best way you can win,” said Murdock. “To make them physically go “no, I don’t want any more” is what you want.”
Murdock is expected to return to the ring in Mexico in either April or May on a card that will be headlined by WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez, who successfully defended his title against unheralded Habib Ahmed on the same Top Rank-promoted show on Saturday night.
Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum plans to match the 26-year-old Mexican southpaw with Murdock at an open-air pop-up stadium at Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast in September if both boxers hold up their end of the deal in their next fights.
Murdock is confident he has the measure of the reigning champion who is undefeated in 37 contests with 25 wins coming via the short route.
“That’s the goal,” said Murdock.
“I can’t imagine losing at the moment. I feel great … I’ll be even better by that stage.”
BUNBURY TRAINER PETER STOKES PASSES AWAY
On Monday evening my Facebook feed was suddenly flooded with dozens of new posts. When I paused to read a few I was saddened to learn that Bunbury boxing coach Peter Stokes had passed away from terminal cancer. He was just 45.
Often when people die the platitudes come thick and fast but there’s little merit to them. This time, the heartfelt sense of loss was palpable.
Stokesy was a widely respected man and a much admired trainer with a genuine lust for life and a wicked sense of humour. The way he managed his year-long battle with cancer in the face of certain death showed the mark of the man.
Stokesy trained many fighters over the years at the Denning Boxing Gym, including Daniel McGlashan, Brandon Ogilvie, Alex Hanan and IBF number six and WBO number 15 ranked featherweight Nathaniel “Cheeky” May, 19-1 (11). There was no doubt in Stokesy’s mind that he had a future world champion on his hands with the 22-year-old contender from Bunbury.
As the tributes continued to flow on social media, a photo of famed US trainer Freddie Roach appeared showing him “putting out his gloves” for Stokesy, an Aussie tradition designed to pay respect to a fallen comrade.
Boxing manager Mike Altamura captured the mood of the meeting perfectly with his tribute on Facebook.
“There’s people who come into your life and leave you a better, stronger, wiser individual,” wrote Altamura. “Peter Stokes was, and forever will be, the toughest, bravest, most determined gentlemen I’ll ever know. He was a success with everything he set his mind to because he refused to fail.
“I give you my word, Stokesy, that I will do everything in my power to see your protégé, Nathaniel May, win a world championship, just like you firmly predicted many years ago.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Jodie and the family. I know you were prepared for this but it never makes the loss easier.
“Farewell, boss. I know you’re already telling people up there that “Cheeky” would smash their fighters, if only given the chance…”
Peter Stokes touched many people in the too-short time he was on this Earth. The world is a poorer place for his passing.
Peter is survived by his wife Jodie and three children, Jordan, Ashley and Amy.
Maxboxing would like to pass on our sincerest condolences to Stokesy’s family and friends for their loss.
Vale Peter Stokes.