Naoya Inoue lived up to the billing and delivered a ‘Monster’ performance on Halloween.
The three-division and reigning unified bantamweight titlist was brilliant in dominating Australia’s Jason Moloney in his Las Vegas debut. Two knockdowns paved the way for a 7th round knockout win Saturday evening at The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Inoue floored Moloney in rounds six and seven, the latter prompting the stoppage at 2:59 of round seven.
“I knew the expectations of me going into this fight,” Inoue told BoxingScene.com. “I was very happy with the way I finished.”
Inoue came racing out the corner to start the fight, only to ease off the gas and simply work his jab at center ring. Moloney attempted to work his way inside but was met with straight right hands on most occasions as well as a wicked uppercut. None of it discouraged Moloney from continuing to come forward, landing a body shot late in the round and ending the round with a counter left hook following a right hand from Inoue.
Moloney looked to establish his jab in round two, with Inoue playing defense and coming back with a purposeful stick of his own.Inoue slipped a shot from Moloney to connect with a left hook to the body midway through the round.Moloney attempted to apply pressure but struggled to keep up with Inoue’s superior hand and foot speed.
Inoue opened round three with a crisp combination against an incoming Moloney, followed by a sharp right uppercut at center ring. Moloney was urged by his corner to not overcommit to his punches, to which he attempted to adjust. Inoue exploited the moments where Moloney failed to heed the advice, connecting with a right hand and left hook late in the round.
Moloney bounced on his toes and utilized lateral movement in round four, doing his best to change his luck. Inoue adapted to every approach, shooting right hands and a piston-like jab. Moloney was not without his moments, landing enough right hands in the round to get the attention of Inoue’s father and trainer who urged his son to not allow the challenger to bring the fight at close quarters.
The gifted power of Inoue was convincingly felt by Moloney late in round five, as the unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant connected with a right hand over the Aussie’s guard. Moloney took the shot, though forced to do a double step in order to steady himself.
Inoue scored the first knockdown of the night early in round six. A counter left hook from the defending champion forced Moloney to the canvas, beating the count but spending most of the rest of the round regaining his faculties. Inoue stunned his challenger with a left hook with roughly one minute to go in the frame.
Moloney was warned by referee Kenny Bayless in between rounds to find a way to turn things around, that it was his job as the ring’s sole arbiter to protect the athletes. That speech wouldn’t have to come again, only because Moloney wouldn’t make it back to his corner.
Inoue was poised at the start of round seven, content to box and find the perfect openings for his explosive power. Moloney paid the price dearly for leaving his chin exposed, shooting a jab but was too slow with the right hand behind it. Inoue slammed a right hand across Moloney’s chin, sending him crashing to the canvas.
Moloney bravely tried to climb off the deck, but never made it to his feet as Bayless waved off the contest.
Moloney suffers his second title fight defeat, falling to 21-2 (18KOs) overall. The loss snapped a four-fight win streak since dropping a narrow split decision to then-unbeaten titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez in October 2018.
Inoue makes the second overall bantamweight title defense and first as a unified titlist. The unbeaten 27-year old improves to 20-0 (16KOs). The win is his first since claiming top honors in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament with a 12-round nod over Nonito Donaire in their unforgettable thriller last November.
The win was not without its setbacks, as Inoue had to recover from a fractured orbital bone around his right eye. Fully healed and back on the hunt, Saturday’s feat pushes Inoue to 15-0 in major title fights.
Inoue claimed his first belt in just his sixth pro fight with a 6th round knockout of then number-one rated junior flyweight Adrian Hernandez in April 2014. The win netted Inoue the WBC 108-pound crown, having since collected the WBO 115-pound strap after dethroning top-rated Omar Narvaez later that year, along with collecting the WBA and IBF bantamweight titles.
In a perfect world, Inoue’s next two fights would be for total unification. To get there, he would have to face WBO titlist John Riel Casimero—whom he was supposed to fight this past April in Las Vegas, only for the event to get canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—or the winner of the December 12 showdown between WBC titlist Nordine Oubaali and Donaire.
“If I had to choose one, it would be the winner of Oubaali and Donaire,” Inoue insisted to BoxingScene.com, admitting the allure of winning another WBC title as his motivation.
In moving to his third weight division, the prodigious rising star has faced nothing but top shelf talent. Every bantamweight Inoue has fought was regarded as a perennial Top 10 fighter heading into the night—and he continues to make it look effortless.
“It’s what I [personally] demand,” Inoue said of desire to face and beat the best. “I just want to see how far I can push myself in the ring.”
Inoue did it again on Saturday, continuing to push himself closer to the top of the pound-for-pound queue in the process.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox