Jason Moloney had every reason to feel confident that his next fight would be for a major title.

It just came down to which path to travel.

There was a point where he thought it would be versus former four-division champ Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28KOs) for the vacant WBC bantamweight title. That came to an end when Top Rank—founded and led by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum—decided to pull Moloney from the negotiation process and instead pursue the WBO belt versus streaking contender Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13KOs).

The opponent and sanctioning body mattered less to Moloney than, simply, a third shot at becoming a first-time bantamweight titlist.

“I was pretty keen on the Donaire fight but at the end of the day, I wasn’t too upset either way,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com. “The goal was always to become world champion and I’m still fighting for the world title. It didn’t bother me too much which route.”  

Moloney-Astrolabio serves as the ESPN-televised co-feature to the Janibek Alimkhanuly-Steven Butler WBO middleweight title fight this Saturday from Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.

Moloney (25-2, 19KOs) came up just short in an October 2018 challenge of IBF bantamweight titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez when both were unbeaten. He was considerably less competitive in a seventh-round stoppage loss to Naoya Inoue in their October 2020 WBA/IBF title fight. Inoue went on to fully unify the division before vacating all four belts, while Rodriguez is now back in line to challenge for the IBF belt versus Miami’s Melvin Lopez on July 15.

For good reason, neither loss did much to dampen the spirt of Moloney who is now riding a four-fight win streak. His last two wins were designed to have him advance in both the WBC and WBO rankings and assure his place in line for a shot at either belt.

Moloney and Donaire were both on hand for the WBC convention last November, when the sanctioning body ordered a fight to either be for the interim or full title, as Inoue (24-0, 21KOs) still held the belt at that time. Moloney was interested in the fight but Top Rank saw greater value in challenging for the WBO title. He faces a confident contender in Astrolabio, who has won his last six starts­—five knockouts and a points victory over former lineal junior featherweight king Guillermo Rigondeaux during that stretch.

“Top Rank was keen on going the WBO route. Of course, I trust them, they are the best promoter in the sport,” acknowledged Moloney. “They’ve turned many fighters in my position into superstars, so I’m going to follow their lead.

“They said they had a route that would allow me to fight Astrolabio for the title and I said, let’s do it. Here we are.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox