Three-division world champion Naoya Inoue is taking his talents to America as the menacing Japanese slugger is ready to make his broaden his star power across the globe.
No, Saturday's bantamweight title bout, as Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) puts his WBA and IBF titles at stake against Australia's Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) in Las Vegas won't officially mark Inoue's U.S. debut as a pro (he fought once in Los Angeles on a Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez undercard in 2017). It does, however, mark the first time "The Monster" will invade American soil with the backing of a major promoter and network.
The 27-year-old Inoue, now promoted by Top Rank, will headline the card (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) which gives Hall of Famer Bob Arum the chance to educate American fans as to just how dangerous and exciting this smaller fighter from foreign soil can be, similar to what he has previously done with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Inoue has certainly proved he's worthy of the attention as the pound-for-pound stalwart rose from obscurity to command the attention of hardcore fans by fighting for and winning a world title in just his sixth pro bout before adding a second world title in as many divisions in just his eighth bout.
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Most of 2019 then saw Inoue move up to a third weight class at 118 pounds and rampage his way through the World Boxing Super Series tournament. The final round of the tournament not only produced one of boxing's best fights this century when Inoue outpointed Nonito Donaire to unify titles, but it allowed Inoue a chance to prove his mettle from the standpoint of toughness and smarts as he overcame a broken orbital bone suffered in Round 2 to rally.
Yet despite the danger Inoue brings to seemingly whichever weight division he occupies at the given moment, the 29-year-old Moloney seemed to go out of his way to seek the fight.
"Every fighter should want to fight the best. That's why we're in this sport," Moloney said during his media teleconference. "My dream and my goal is to be the best bantamweight in the world, and the only way to make that happen is to beat Inoue. I've been working towards this opportunity, and have wanted this opportunity, for a long time. It's finally here. I'm completely confident, and I know I've got what it takes to beat him. Saturday night's the opportunity to prove it. I can't wait. I'm ready to go."
Moloney has won four straight since the lone defeat of his pro career, a split decision loss to Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2018. Rodriguez went on to be knocked out in vicious fashion by Inoue one year later. It's one of the main reasons why Inoue has been installed as a clear favorite by oddsmakers.
"I love being the underdog, and I love proving people wrong and going out there and, as I've said before, shocking the world," Moloney said. "I know a lot of people don't give me a chance in this fight, and that just gives me extra motivation and extra fire in the belly to go out there and show people what can be done.
"People place some of these fighters like Inoue and Lomachenko on this pedestal and think that they're unbeatable, but they're not. We're all human. We all got two arms and two legs, and everyone has weaknesses. Everybody can be beaten."
Elsewhere on the card, Mikaela Mayer is back in action to fight for a world title when she faces Ewa Brodnicka for the WBO junior lightweight strap. Mayer is fighting for the second time during the pandemic after having a few speed bumps earlier this summer. She was supposed to fight on Top Rank's first card back in action in June, but Mayer was removed from the card on the day of the event for a positive COVID-19 test. However, it turned out to be a false positive. She returned in July to get a decision over Helen Joseph and set up this showdown with a tough opponent in Brodnicka, who has won six title fights in her career.
Fight card, odds
- Naoya Inoue (c) -900 vs. Jason Moloney +600, IBF/WBA bantamweight titles
- Ewa Brodnicka (c) vs. Mikaela Mayer, WBO junior lightweight title
- Julian Rodriguez vs. Jose Eduardo Lopez Rodriguez, junior welterweights
Moloney is a capable boxer and he certainly deserves credit for seeking out such a dangerous challenge in Inoue. It's also worth mentioning that Inoue will be coming off an 11-month layoff in which he was forced to heal from sustained damaged suffered inside the ring for the first time.
That's the only concession towards Moloney one can really give, however, when sizing up this matchup. Inoue is too precise, too powerful and too skilled overall to have extended amounts of trouble.
Look for Inoue to land early and test the chin of Moloney. Should the Australian keep getting up and assume an offensive stance, don't expect the judges to be needed.
Pick: Inoue via KO4