WBSS underdog Jason Moloney ready for title shot vs. Emmanuel Rodriguez
If you’d have told Jason Moloney after he lost his first three amateur fights that one day he’d be fighting for a world title, he’d have called you crazy.
His opportunity comes this Saturday against IBF bantamweight titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez at the CFE Arena in Orlando, Fla., as his opening bout in the World Boxing Super Series. Though unbeaten through 17 fights, he’s among the least known participants in this season’s bantamweight tournament, which features division “boogeymen” Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete.
Moloney says he never had a second thought about trying his luck.
“As soon as it was mentioned that the bantamweights would be in season two I put my hand up straight away,” said Moloney (17-0, 14 knockouts).
“I entered the tournament as a big underdog. And obviously I haven’t achieved what some of these guys have achieved in their careers so far. I’m not a world champion yet. I just think this is my time to shine and this is the opportunity I’ve been given to get my name out there in the world boxing scene.”
What makes him so sure are the sacrifices he has made to advance his career. Since turning to boxing at age 12 with his twin brother Andrew, an undefeated contender in the junior bantamweight division, Moloney has built his life around the sport. He and his fiancee’ Jorja packed up and left their friends and family behind in their hometown of Melbourne, Australia, and relocated over 1,000 miles away to Kingscliff to train with his current coach Angelo Hyder. As for fun and recreation? None of that really exists for him.
“Any regular, normal thing that a 27-year-old would do, I don’t do any of them. Things like food, or going out with your mates and having a beer, none of that really matters to me,” said Moloney.
That sacrifice makes Moloney a not-so-fun guy to call up on the weekends, but has also earned him a mandatory shot at Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs), the 26-year-old Puerto Rican fighter who is making his first defense of the belt he won by traveling to the United Kingdom to defeat an overweight Paul Butler this past May.
To lift the title, Moloney will need to do the same thing in front of a crowd likely to be packed with Puerto Rican fans cheering on Rodriguez. Moloney has yet to fight abroad as a pro but had done so many times during the amateurs, including at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India where he defeated Michael Conlan. He says he’ll have a little cheering section of his own with family and friends flying in to watch him get his title shot.
“I’ve always pictured myself fighting overseas in big shows. I don’t think that’s gonna have any negative effect fighting in front of his home crowd. I think it’ll make me lift if anything,” said Moloney.
He’s had some time to get acquainted with the locals, having spent two and a half weeks in Central Florida getting adjusted to the 15-hour time difference from back home. It’s also given him the chance to get some sparring work with former IBF junior featherweight titleholder Jonathan Guzman, and a St. Louis native named Derrick Murray.
Hyder, who counts ex-champions Danny Green, Chris John and Vic Darchinyan among those he has worked with, has trained the Moloney twins since last year. He looks towards Moloney’s last outing, when he became just the second boxer to stop Kohei Kono (Inoue was the other), as evidence of Moloney’s maturity before his first world title fight.
Hyder figures Rodriguez is a solid, all-around talent, but that his fighter is just a little better in everything.
“I think Jason at this stage in his career is a little bit faster, hits a little bit harder, and probably has a little bit more boxing overall skill. He’s just got that little bit extra in each that’ll be the difference in this fight,” said Hyder.
Signing up for the WBSS potentially means fighting three times against some of the most dangerous fighters of the lower divisions, which includes WBA bantamweight titleholder Ryan Burnett and four-division champ Nonito Donaire Jr. The winner of the Rodriguez-Moloney fight will likely meet Inoue, who showed why he’s an early favorite to win it all by starching Juan Carlos Payano in one round in his opening fight.
Moloney says he signed up believing he could win it all.
“These are all fights that I want and I believe I can win. At the start when we entered the tournament and saw the other eight entries, we looked at everyone and these fights all excite me,” said Moloney.
“Right now, now the fight’s getting close, all I’m focusing on is Rodriguez. I didn’t even watch the Inoue fight or the Tete fight; right now all I’ve been doing is studying Rodriguez.”
Moloney is no one’s pick to go all the way in the tournament, but that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming.
“Laying in bed at night I picture myself getting my hand raised and getting that world title around my waist. I know that it’ll be the most unbelievable feeling,” said Moloney.