What better time than Halloween for The Monster to invade Sin City.
Naoya Inoue will finally make his long-awaited debut under the Top Rank banner, doing so in his first career fight in Las Vegas. The occasion comes in a unified bantamweight title defense versus Australia’s Jason Moloney, with the two due to collide October 31, live on ESPN+ from the MGM Grand Conference Center (“The Bubble”).
The fight comes as a contingency plan for Inoue (19-0, 16KOs), as the pound-for-pound talent and three-division champ from Yokohama, Japan had designs on facing Philippines’ John Riel Casimero in a three-belt unification clash. Such a fight was set for April 25 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, only to get shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
All told, it has left Inoue on the shelf since a 12-round win over Nonito Donaire in their Fight of the Year-level slugfest last November in Saitama, Japan. The feat left Inoue with two bantamweight belts, top honors in the World Boxing Super Series tournament and a co-promotional contract with Top Rank.
Hopes of commemorating the event with Casimero even in a rescheduled affair disappeared when the Filipino was advised to instead take his services to a September 26 Showtime Pay-Per-View event. Casimero will next defend his bantamweight title versus Duke Micah.
Fortunately for Inoue, there was another top 118-pound boxer eager to accept the assignment in a fight that could have easily occurred a year ago with the right break.
Moloney was also in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, suffering his lone career defeat via split decision to Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez in their October 2018 quarterfinal bout. Rodriguez went on to face Inoue, who scored three knockdowns en route to a 2nd round knockout to begin his third division title reign after having served atop junior flyweight and junior bantamweight.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Moloney (21-1, 18KOs) has reemerged as a top contender. Four straight wins have followed for the 29-year old from Kingscliff, whose twin brother Andrew is a former secondary junior bantamweight titlist. The two made their respective Vegas debuts two days apart this past June, both taking place in the very venue which will house this title fight.
Andrew Moloney left Vegas with his first career defeat, losing a 12-round decision and his version of the 115-pound title to San Antonio’s Joshua Franco on June 23. Two nights later, Jason Moloney managed his first stateside win in a one-sided 7th round stoppage of Mexico’s Leonardo Baez.
Ever since that night came the desire for his next fight to be for a world title, with manager Tony Tolj remaining engaged in talks with the handlers for Casimero and Inoue throughout the summer.
“It never mattered to me which one of the two it was, whether Inoue or Casimero,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com. “But if I’m being honest, Inoue is a dream fight if I always had my pick.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox