Joshua Franco is in line for yet another trrilogy in his still young career.
The reigning secondary junior bantamweight titlist has been ordered to once again face Australia’s Andrew Moloney, per a ruling from the World Boxing Association (WBA). The sanctioning body called for a third fight between the two, with the order coming just weeks after their November 14 rematch failed to produce a winner or a definitive outcome.
“The World Boxing Association (WBA) ordered an immediate rematch between Super Flyweight Champion Joshua Franco and challenger Andrew Moloney,” the sanctioning body announced on Thursday. “They will have 30 days to negotiate the terms or the fight will be called to purse bids.”
Official letters were sent to Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, the respective promoters for Franco and Moloney whose immediate teams were also notified of the development. According to the notice—a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com—the two sides have 30 days from Thursday's ruling to work out terms. In the event the fight goes to a purse bid hearing, Franco will enjoy the favorable end of a 72/25 split as the reigning titlist
San Antonio’s Franco (17-1-2, 8KOs; 1ND) was credited with a successful first title defense of the belt he claimed from Moloney (21-1, 14KOs; 1ND) this past June, though their rematch created a storm of controversy.
The two once again met at The Bubble at MGM Grand, where Franco earned a 12-round unanimous decision to win the belt on June 23 and which housed their ESPN-televised rematch four weeks ago. Franco suffered swelling in his right eye in the opening round of the bout, which was ruled by referee Russell Mora to have been the cause of an accidental headbutt.
That judgment was widely disputed by Moloney, Top Rank and the millions of viewers who tuned in for the bout. Repeated replays failed to show evidence of a headbutt, though did pick up a Moloney jab causing Franco to wince in pain and his eye soon thereafter slowly begin to close. By the time the bell sounded to begin round three, Franco was deemed unable to continue.
Because it was determined that the bout ended on an accidental foul and that the contest had not completed four rounds, the official in-ring ruling was a No-Decision. Then came a review period conducted by an instant replay panel assigned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), including its executive director Bob Bennett which lasted more than 26 minutes only to produce the same result.
An official appeal has been filed with the NSAC by Moloney through his legal team, hiring renowned boxing attorney Josh Dubin to argue the case on his behalf. The matter is still being fielded by the NSAC, with a date yet to be assigned to the case.
Moloney and Top Rank also filed an appeal with the WBA on November 20. The sanctioning body sympathized with the forner titlist and the manner in which he was denied a stoppage ruling which would have restored his reign.
Instead, Moloney will just have to settle for one more shot.
"The Championship Committee, in its sole discretion, may order the boxers fight a rematch," Carlos Chávaez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee noted in the sanctioning body's ruling. "Based on the [aformentioned] rules, and due to the fact that there is no clear evidence to determine whether Franco's eye swelling was due to the headbutt or by Moloney's jab to the area, this committee hereby approves the [d]irect [r]ematch request made by Top Rank on November 20, 2020."
Neither boxer is permitted to enter an interim fight during the specified time frame.
Meanwhile, Franco—who has since signed with manager Rick Mirigian and MTK Global—remained on board with the idea of a third fight with Moloney. Such an occurrence will serve as the second time within the past three years of his career, as he was just two fights removed from an entertaining three-fight series with Colombia’s Oscar Negrete—going 1-0-2 through 30 rounds of action covering a 10-month period from October 2018 through August 2019.
Talks were already underway for such a fight, which stands a good chance of landing in Moloney’s native Australia next spring. The two sides will have the next 30 days to discuss such matters, although the idea of fighting in Australia means being able to do so with a large crowd in attendance given the nation’s ability to gain control of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The first two fights between Franco and Moloney both took place behind closed doors in Las Vegas.
Moloney claimed an interim version of the WBA 115-pound title following a stoppage win over Elton Dharry after eight rounds last November in Melbourne. Months later came an upgrade to WBA “World” champion following Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez’s 9th round stoppage of Kal Yafai after which he was named WBA “Super” 115-pound champion.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox