A pivotal 11th round knockdown propelled Joshua Franco to victory, all while sparing the sport the embarrassment of yet another questionable decision.
The streaking junior bantamweight from San Antonio unseated previously unbeaten WBA “Regular” 115-pound titlist Andrew Moloney in their ESPN-televised headliner Tuesday evening at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. It required his sweeping the final four rounds on all three scorecards and scoring a knockdown in the championship rounds in order to prevail by scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113.
It also never should have come to that.
Yet that is where we are as long as the Nevada State Athletic Commission continues to use the same small pool of ringside officials for the current summer boxing series being staged behind closed doors. Judges Dave ‘Never Carl’ Moretti and Patricia Morse Jarman—both based in Las Vegas—turned in identical scorecards of 114-113, with judge Julie Lederman—a second generation ring official and daughter of the late, great Harold Lederman—scoring the bout 115-112 in favor of Franco.
As reflected in the final scores, all three judges generally saw the same fight as they were unison on eight of the 12 rounds of action. Moloney claimed rounds one, four and seven on all three official scorecards, with Franco sweeping rounds 9-12 along with round five.
Moloney was the majority winner in all four split frames, winning on at least two scorecards in rounds two, three, six and eight.
Most viewers watching at home (or the location of their preference) sensed that Franco was well on his way to prevailing in the first major title fight amidst the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, he needed a knockdown just to pull even on the cards of Moretti and Morse Jarman heading into the final round, while clinching the fight in Lederman’s eyes.
Judges Moretti and Morse Jarman agreed on 10 of the rounds. The two split frames on their cards came in rounds three and eight. Morse Jarman was the lone judge to award Franco round three, while Moretti cast the dissenting card in favor of Franco in round eight.
The latter of the two was the first of five straight rounds Moretti would award to Franco after scoring just one (round five) of the first seven for the Golden Boy Promotions product. Franco trailed 69-63 heading into the eighth round on the latest in a series of recent scorecards turned in by Moretti that should warrant an immediate investigation conducted by the Nevada commission.
Just one week prior, Moretti was the lone judge who failed to award Mike Plania a well-deserved 10-round victory over Joshua Greer, scoring the contest 94-94 for a fight that even Greer himself acknowledged he lost.
Judge Lederman was in agreement with Moretti and Morse Jarman, separately, on nine of the 12 rounds.
In addition to the eight unanimous rounds scored, judges Lederman and Moretti agreed on one more—scoring round three in favor of Moloney. Lederman and Morse Jarman agreed on Moloney claiming round eight, the last frame he would win on either of their scorecards.
Australia’s Moloney (21-1, 14KOs) attempted the first defense of the title he acquired this past March, while also making his stateside debut. The 29-year old needed to win just one of the final four frame or at least avoid a knockdown in order to remain champ, as he led 77-75, 77-75 and 78-74 after eight rounds of action.
Having managed to complete one of those two scenarios would have preserved his title status and unbeaten record. It also would have created yet another uproar in just the two-plus weeks that boxing has returned following a three-month break due to the ongoing global health crisis.
Instead, Franco’s late rally provides boxing’s latest feel-good story—although the closer than necessary scores still manage to provide the same old tale.
Judges Moretti and Morse Jarman have served on all five ESPN shows to have aired live from Las Vegas this month. Both have remained as part of a small pool of ring officials in efforts to minimize the risk of COVID-19 entering the isolated area known as “The Bubble.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox