Junto Nakatani knew the fight was over the moment he landed that punch.

A left hand from the Japanese southpaw flattened Australia’s Andrew Moloney in the closing seconds of their vacant WBO junior bantamweight title fight. The punch was so devastating that referee Mark Nelson stopped the fight on the spot, despite just 18 seconds left in their ESPN-aired bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“That was the best knockout of my boxing career,” Nakatani told BoxingScene.com. “Moloney had never lost by knockout and I expected a tough hard fight. I’m very happy to hear that it is among the best knockouts of the year.”

Nakatani (25-0, 19KOs) became a two-division titlist that evening. Less than five months later, he will attempt his defense versus Mexico’s Argi Cortes as part of a title fight doubleheader Monday from Ariake Arena in Tokyo. Headlining the Amazon Prime Video/ESPN+ show, Kenshiro Teraji (21-1, 13KOs) defends his lineal, WBC and WBA junior flyweight crown versus former two-division titlist Hekkie Budler (35-4, 11KOs).

Nakatani went the distance in his first fight as a full junior bantamweight, a ten-round decision over Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez last November 1 in Saitama, Japan. The verdict ended a six-fight knockout streak enjoyed by Nakatani, including an eighth-round stoppage of Giemel Magramo to win the WBO flyweight title and a fourth-round, broken nose stoppage of former titlist Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta In September 2021.

None carried the feeling he was left with when a fighter of Moloney’s mettle was unable to make it to the finish line even after the fight trended in that direction. The fact that it came on the undercard of the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undisputed lightweight championship only added to the achievement.

“That knockout was the best of my career and gave me even more confidence in my boxing future,” noted Nakatani. “Also, I have realized afterwards many people got to know Junto Nakatani all over the world.” 

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