Andrew Moloney continues to hunt for a major title in the lucrative junior bantamweight division.
The former secondary WBA titlist has drawn motivation from a recently ordered title fight ahead of his own ring appearance this weekend. Australia’s Moloney returns this Saturday in the opening bout of an ESPN tripleheader from The OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, California. The fight comes on the heels of WBO calling for a mandatory title fight between four-division and defending junior bantamweight titlist Kazuto Ioka and former champ Donnie Nietes.
“Both are great fighters and I would absolutely love the opportunity to fight the winner of this fight,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com. “I would be more than happy to travel into either man’s backyard for the opportunity.”
Moloney (22-2, 14KOs; 1ND) has grown accustomed to fighting on the road. His upcoming bout with Gilberto Mendoza (19-11-3, 10KOs) will mark his fourth in the U.S. within his last five starts. The first fight to put Moloney on the title scene also came on the road, scoring an eighth-round knockout of Miguel Gonzalez in his opponent’s Chile home country to become the mandatory to the WBA junior bantamweight title.
Moloney—who signed with Top Rank in 2019, along with twin brother Jason—captured a version of the WBA junior bantamweight title with hopes of landing one of the division’s bigger names. Visions of facing four-division and then-WBA 115-pound champ Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) or current lineal/WBA champ Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3, 28KOs) disappeared following his June 2020 loss to Joshua Franco.
Two separate efforts to regain the belt left Moloney without a win—0-2-1 in their three-fight series—though since rebounding with a ten-round points win over Froilan Saludar last December 21 in Sydney. The desire at the time was to land a shot at Ioka (28-2, 15KOs), who went on to face and defeat countryman Ryoji Fukunaga last New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
The win was the fourth successful title defense for Osaka’s Ioka, and his fifth straight win since a split decision defeat to Philippines’ Nietes (43-1-6, 23KOs) on New Year’s Eve 2018 in Macao. Nietes has since fought just twice, with the 39-year-old former four-division titlist showing signs of decline including a struggling ten-round draw with former title challenger Norbelto Jimenez last December 11 in Dubai.
Moloney still has to get through this weekend, but envisions a future title challenge of Ioka once the dust settles.
“Even though Nietes won their first fight, I believe age and inactivity have finally caught up with him as he has not looked great in his last few fights,” notes Moloney. “I believe Nietes will be competitive for the first half of this fight but will fade throughout the last half and be outworked by Ioka. I expect Ioka to come home strong and win a wide UD or possibly score a late stoppage.”
Moloney-Mendoza is part of an ESPN tripleheader topped by IBF/WBO junior lightweight champion Mikaela Mayer (16-0, 5KOs), who defends versus former featherweight titlist Jennifer Han (18-4-1, 1KO).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox