MGM Grand Conference Center, Las Vegas - In a bantamweight fight, Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) busted up and stopped Leonardo Baez (18-3, 9 KOs) in seven rounds.
Baez came out with a long jab and doing solid work. Moloney was countering well and picking off a lot of punches. Round two was more of a dog-fight, with both boxers trading punches on the inside.
Baez was cut in the third, around his right eye, as he was being outpunched. The fourth was tight, with each man able to land, but Moloney had the edge. Baez did well in the fifth, as they traded good punches in close. Moloney was landing well with hard punches to the head and body in the sixth.
In the seventh, the left eye of Baez was cut as Moloney was landing hard shots in close. At the end of the seventh, the fight was stopped in Baez's corner.
The third time’s a charm for the Moloney family to live out their American dream.
Two nights after watching his twin brother suffer his first career defeat and significant facial damage in this very ring, Jason Moloney rose to the occasion in his own stateside ESPN headliner. The streaking bantamweight from Australia thoroughly outworked Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez en route to a 7th round stoppage Thursday evening at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Baez’s corner elected to stop the contest after seven rounds, citing their fighter’s inability to breathe as means to end the fight which grew one-sided with each passing frame.
“You don’t know, I just wanted this so bad,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com shortly after the win, coming 48 hours after his twin brother Andrew was rushed to the hospital following a 12-round loss to Joshua Franco. “This was the biggest opportunity of my career and I’m so happy now.
“This was the best performance of my career.”
It was undoubtedly fueled by the result of Tuesday evening’s main event, a scenario his brother never wanted to put him in but was inspired to watch.
“I feel a bit guilty, there was so much pressure on him to win for Team Moloney,” Andrew Moloney (21-1, 14KOs) noted to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna from ringside. “But he [performed] really well.”
Neither boxer pardoned the body early in the fight. Moloney offered right hands upstairs before targeting Baez’s midsection with left hooks. Baez was game for the cause, keeping the fight at a phone booth’s distance as he raked left hooks and right hands downstairs.
A similar pattern played out in a fast-paced round two. Baez dug deep in his best effort to outwork the former title challenger, but Moloney stood his ground and connected with multiple left hooks to Baez’s body.
Neither fighter gave an inch in round three, though Moloney forced Baez to pay the price for not changing up his attack. The rangy spoiler from Mexicali was left with a deep cut over his right eye, prompting his corner to insist he stop laying on the inside.
Ever the warrior, Baez proved resistant to the instructions if only for another round or so. Moloney continued to throw with greater accuracy, outthrowing and outlanding Baez throughout the fourth. Baez finally agreed to fight at a distance in rounds five and six, but was thoroughly outworked for his efforts. Moloney continued to mix up his attack, tagging the body with power shots and landing with growing frequency upstairs.
Baez was able to punch with Moloney with greater regularity in round seven but never came close to matching the connect rate. The damage showed on his face, with blood streaming down the right side of Baez’s face as Moloney continued to charge forward full steam ahead.
By the end of seven round, the effects of Moloney’s relentless attack was also evident in Baez’s body language. Shortness of breath in between rounds was enough to convince his corner to disallow the valiant Mexican from taking any more punishment than necessary. Referee Kenny Bayless honored that decision, waving off the contest prior to the start of round eight.
Moloney was well ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Second-generation judge Julie Lederman—the daughter of the late, legendary Harold Lederman—scored the contest 68-65, while judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham turned in identical 69-63 scorecards.
A six-fight win streak comes to a close for Baez, who falls to 19-3-2 (7KOs). The setback stalls a Cinderella story that saw a 2019 campaign include upset wins over 2016 Argentina Olympian and previously unbeaten prospect Alberto Melian and former title challenger Moises ‘Chucky’ Flores.
Meanwhile, Moloney comes up aces for the family’s first win in the U.S. in three tries. The 29-year old bantamweight contender improves to 22-1 (17KOs), extended his win streak to four in a row and all coming inside the distance. Moloney scored three knockouts in 2019 after reeling from a heartbreaking split decision defeat to then-unbeaten bantamweight titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Andrew’s loss on Tuesday came in his U.S. debut, making the Moloney family winless in this country of the prior to Thursday evening.
“That was the greatest moment of my career. It was tough watching my brother the other night, but I knew I had a job to do. Thank you to my team. I sacrificed so much for six weeks, leaving my fiancée and my baby. I’m just over the moon.”
He is also over most other bantamweights in terms of world rankings.
Moloney was favorably positioned in the bantamweight ratings for all four major sanctioning bodies. His desire to challenge for a major title will require patience as all of the belts are committed to upcoming fights.
Naoya Inoue and John Riel Casimero are awaiting a rescheduled date for their three-belt (WBA, IBF, WBO) unification clash which was due to take place April 26 in Las Vegas before being postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Moloney was due to face Joshua Greer Jr. on the undercard, though such a bout means a little less than it did even two weeks ago; Greer suffered an upset points loss to Philippines’ Mike Plania earlier this month on ESPN.
The lone other bantamweight strap currently resides with France’s Nordine Oubaali, who is due to defend versus mandatory challenger and former four-division champ Nonito Donaire.
Moloney was determined enough to prevail in the U.S. that he and his brother set up camp in Las Vegas for more than a month. He knows a waiting game will come of his title pursuit, willing to take on any challenge in order to satisfy that goal.
“This was a big step towards my dream of winning a world title,” Moloney states. “I want that world title so bad. I’m ready for any of the champions.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox