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World champion Naoya Inoue to defend titles against Jason Moloney, Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney rematch close

Moloney gets his dream shot

By Anthony Cocks

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Inoue vs. Moloney
Inoue vs. Moloney

WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Naoya "The Monster" Inoue 19-0 (16) is set to defend his unified championship against Jason "Mayhem" Moloney 21-1 (18) in November, according to promoter Bob Arum.

 

The 27-year-old champion from Japan has fast emerged as the premier fighter in the lighter weight classes with his explosive power and dynamic style.

 

But Australia’s Moloney, 29, is confident of springing the upset.

 

The card could also feature a rematch between Jason’s twin brother Andrew Moloney 21-1 (14), who lost his WBA ‘regular’ title to Joshua Franco 17-1-2 (8) in a close points decision in Las Vegas in June.

 

“Jason Moloney is scheduled this fall to fight against the ‘Monster’ from Japan, Inoue,” Top Rank chairman Arum told Corbin Middlemas on ABC Grandstand.

 

“Jason is in there with a hell of a shot. And his brother [Andrew] lost a tough fight to this [Joshua] Franco and there was a rematch clause fortunately, so we’re going to rematch that fight.”

 

Inoue won his first world championship when he defeated Adrian Hernandez for the WBC junior flyweight title in just his sixth pro fight in 2014.

 

After one title defence he jumped up two weight classes to claim the WBO super flyweight belt against Argentinian veteran Omar Narvaez by second-round KO.

 

Seven title defences would follow before Inoue moved up to bantamweight where he would defeat four current or former world champions Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire. Three of those four opponents didn’t survive the opening two rounds.

 

The last time Inoue was in action was last November when veteran Donaire dragged him into the trench in the final of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS). Inoue won on points, but not before suffering a fracture to his right eye socket.

 

Moloney scored a dominant seventh-round stoppage over Leonardo Baez 18-3 (9) in Las Vegas in June. It has been his only fight this calendar year.

 

Moloney has long had his eye on Inoue. His lone loss came to then-IBF bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez by split decision in the quarterfinals of the WBSS. Rodriguez would go on to face Inoue in the semi-finals.

 

“Jason Moloney and Inoue is signed, yeah,” Arum continued. “And Andrew, we exercise the option with the Franco people. We hope to have both fights going in November.”

 

Inoue was expected to face WBO counterpart John Riel Casimero 29-4 (20) earlier this year before the global coronavirus pandemic scotched the bout.

 

The fight was being renegotiated for later this year but, according to Top Rank vice president of operations Carl Moretti in an interview with ESPN, it fell apart again: "Because we lost a seven-figure gate."

 

Casimero will move on to a voluntary title defence against undefeated Duke Micah 24-0 (19) at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville in Connecticut on September 26.

 

Sean Gibbons of MP Promotions told ESPN he would be happy to revisit an Inoue-Casimero fight in the future.

 

"Everything’s on the table," he said. "But we’re not going to sit around and wait for it any more. We’re a WBO world champion. We don’t wait for anybody. We did, but those days are over. We control our own destiny. If that fight presents itself again, it will be reviewed."

 

Meanwhile, Andrew Moloney is close to signing on for an immediate rematch with Franco following his razor-thin points loss two months ago. He suffered a pair of perforated eardrums during the fight which he lost 114-113, 115-112 and 114-113.

 

The 24-year-old Franco from San Antonio, Texas, recently praised Moloney for his fighting spirit.

 

“That just shows what kind of heart he has,” Franco told The Ring. “He wants to fight again to try and get his [secondary WBA] belt back but I’m not gonna let him [get it back].

 

“I see the [rematch] going way different than the first fight. I don’t see it going 12 rounds.”

 

Moloney was shattered by the loss but insisted he could improve on the performance.

 

“It just wasn’t my night tonight," he said at the time.

 

"This was not the best version of Andrew Moloney, but full credit to Joshua Franco. He deserved to win the title with his effort. He closed the fight strong, like a true champion.

 

“I’ll be back. One loss won’t define me.”

 

Last month Moloney revealed his plan to take on Franco in an immediate rematch.

 

“I’m extremely excited to announce that I will be having a rematch with Joshua Franco,” he said.

 

“I want to say a huge thanks to Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing for giving me this opportunity… I can’t wait to get back to America and fight on the big stage again soon. I’m now more motivated than ever to get my world title back.

 

“I worked my whole life to get that world title and I’m now hungrier than ever to get it back.”

 

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