Just two nights after watching his twin brother lose his WBA junior flyweight championship in upset fashion, Jason Moloney will step into the ring looking to avoid a similar fate as he battles Leonardo Baez in the headlining bout from the MGM Grand on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Jason may actually be the better of the Australian twins, even if Andrew entered the week with a "world" title -- a belt that was actually the WBA's secondary title with Roman Gonzalez holding the status as "super champion" for the governing body. Where Andrew was making his United States debut on Tuesday, Jason has already been to the country previously, suffering his lone loss in a split decision to Emmanuel Rodriguez in the quarterfinals of the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series.
Moloney (20-1, 17 KO) will only be fighting outside of his native Australia for the second time when he faces Baez, but the loss to Rodriguez in October 2018 was an eye-opener for many. Moloney was outclassed early in the fight, with Rodriguez building up a lead on the scorecards. But Moloney showed off tremendous heart and staged a roaring comeback, overwhelming Rodriguez down the stretch. It was too little, too late for Moloney, though, as two judges still gave Rodriguez the nod but announced Moloney as a legitimate talent in his bid for the IBF title.
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Moloney rebounded from the loss with three straight knockout victories, all in fights for the WBO Oceana bantamweight championship, a regional title which has only been contested 11 times, 10 of which involved one of the Moloney brothers. His sights are firmly set on becoming a world champion after failing to accomplish the feat against Rodriguez, but Moloney has expressed lofty goals for his legacy.
"I'd love to go down as one of the best ever Australian fighters and inspire the next generation," Moloney told BadLeftHook in May. Hopefully, if people see guys like Andrew and me living clean and honest lives, it'll prove that you don't need to be a thug to be a good fighter, and parents will be encouraged to introduce their kids to the sport. I understand that I am asking for a lot, but as they say, if your dreams don't scare you, they ain't big enough."
Baez (18-2, 9 KO) is firmly in the role of underdog heading into the fight. He is taking the matchup on short notice after it was confirmed on June 14 that Moloney's originally scheduled opponent, Oscar Negrete, had suffered a detached retina. Negrete made sense as the opponent after he had gone 0-1-2 in a wild trilogy with Joshua Franco -- the man who defeated Andrew Moloney on Tuesday, setting up a story of the two rivals being featured against the Aussie twins.
Baez is on a six-fight winning streak, winning the NABA super bantamweight title along the way, though his level of competition doesn't touch men of Moloney's quality.
In the co-main event, a pair of lightweights looking to steal the show meet up when Abraham Nova takes on Avery Sparrow. Nova is looking like quite the prospect at 18-0 with 14 knockouts in his careers. He enters this battle with Sparrow riding a four-fight knockout streak. Sparrow, meanwhile, boasts a 10-1 record with the lone loss coming via disqualification in 2015.
Below you can have a look at the full Top Rank fight card set for Tuesday, with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Moloney vs. Baez card, odds
Jason Moloney -1000
Leonardo Baez +650
Abraham Nova -220
Avery Sparrow +180
Orlando Gonzalez-Ruiz n/a
Luis Porozo n/a
Sonny Conto n/a
Waldo Cortes Acosta n/a
This should be a fairly by-the-numbers clash. Baez is taking the fight on late notice and would be a sizable underdog even with a full camp. Moloney is a legitimate enough bantamweight contender with solid skills. Unless seeing his brother bloodied and beaten two days prior to the fight has some sort of crippling mental effect, Moloney should cruise. But upsets have been frequent during this current pandemic era of boxing. Moloney via TKO5
Who wins Moloney vs. Baez and Nova vs. Sparrow? And which fighter's training regimen spells doom for him Thursday? ... Visit SportsLine now to see boxing manager Peter Kahn's best bets, all from the fight game insider who's a perfect 3-0 picking fights this month.