Given all that he went through just to get to the United States and in a position to resume his career, Jason Moloney couldn’t care less who is standing in the opposite corner on fight night.
Fortunately for the bantamweight contender, his newly scheduled opponent isn’t far from off from the style he’s been prepared for weeks to face.
Australia’s Moloney (20-1, 17KOs) will remain atop the June 25 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN, as he will now face Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez (18-2, 9KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bantamweight bout live from MGM Grand Conference Center (also known as “The Bubble”) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Baez replace Colombia’s Oscar Negrete, who withdrew due to an eye injury, as first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim.
“We just had the change in opponent, but quite honestly we are coming over here in great shape and ready to fight anyone in the world,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com. “He’s quite filled out for the division, a lot bigger (than Negrete) but similarly aggressive style. We’re focused and ready for this fight."
Baez represents the third opponent for which Moloney will prepare to face in 2020. The 29-year old Aussie was due to make his Las Vegas debut on April 25, in a crossroads bout versus Joshua Greer Jr. in supporting capacity to a bantamweight title unification clash between Naoya Inoue and Johnriel Casimero. The show was among several to have been canceled in the past few months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Greer has since been rescheduled to face Philippines Mike Plania this Tuesday, also live on ESPN from The Bubble.
Moloney was looking forward to facing Negrete (19-2-2, 7KOs), an aggressive rising contender who never stops throwing punches. Instead, he faces a dangerous spoiler in Baez who is coming off of a five-win campaign in 2019 including decisive wins over 2016 Argentina Olympic bantamweight Alberto Melian and former world title challenger Moises ‘Chucky’ Flores.
“Their styles are very similar in their aggression and the way they throw a lot of punches,” notes Moloney, who has won three straight since a narrow points loss to then-unbeaten bantamweight titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez in October 2018. “Everything we’ve been working on hasn’t changed, other than adjusting to a taller opponent.
“The switch in opponents doesn’t bother me at all. Everyone in the division is in my sights and I want to start winning world titles. To do that, I have to beat Leonardo Baez on June 25. That’s the way I look at it.”
Moloney’s bout comes two days after his twin brother, reigning 115-pound titlist Andrew Moloney makes his first title defense versus Joshua Franco in his own ESPN-televised main event live from The Bubble.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox