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Junto Nakatani scores brutal knockout of Andrew Moloney in 12, wins WBO junior bantamweight title

Junto Nakatani (R) stands over Andrew Moloney (L) during their WBO super flyweight championship fight. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Fighters Network

LAS VEGAS – Junto Nakatani dropped Andrew Moloney three times en route to an emphatic knockout win Saturday night at the MGM Grand.

With the win, Nakatani (25-0, 19 knockouts) is now the WBO world junior bantamweight titleholder. 

The southpaw Nakatani, who resides in Sagamihara, Japan, imposed himself from the opening bell, utilizing his height and reach. 

An uppercut to the chin knocked Moloney to the canvas about a minute into the second round. Moloney beat the count, but fought the round on wobble legs. Moloney did have the ability to tie up Nakatani, preventing him from doing further damage.

Rather than build momentum off the knockdown or follow up, Nakatani suffered a cut between his eyes from an accidental clash of heads. After consulting with the ringside physician, referee Mark Thomas allowed the action to continue. 

The southpaw Nakatani landed the more-effective punches, but Moloney closed the distance effectively between the two, focusing his attack to the body. The tactic worked, but Nakatani kept continuing to sneak uppercuts to the head of Moloney.

There was a solid ebb and flow as the bout progressed into the second half of the fight. Both fighters had their moment, but Nakatani began imposing his will. After utilizing lateral movement to avoid Moloney’s punches, Nakatani effectively countered with an array of punches and combinations. 

Midway through the ninth round, Nakatani stunned Moloney with a combination to the head. Moments later, Nakatani landed a two-punch combination that again stunned Moloney. To his credit, Moloney hung in there, fighting back and attempting to catch Nakatani flush.

Nakatani dropped Moloney a second time during the 11th round, this time with a left cross to the head. Moloney barely beat the count, but was able to hold on or fend off Nakatani as the round concluded.

Moloney was the aggressor during the final round, stalking Nakatani, who was content to fight from distance, although he did attempt to wing a hook or cross. It was a left cross that connected to the chin of Moloney, dropping him flat onto his back, prompting referee Mark Thomas to stop the fight at 2:42. 

The 25-year-old has now won world title belts in two different weight classes. He vacated the WBO world flyweight title, making his debut at 115 pounds in his previous fight against Francisco Rodriguez, winning a unanimous decision. 

Moloney, who resides in Kingscliff, Australia, falls to 25-3 1 ND, 16 KOs. The 32-year-old had won his previous four bouts since losing to Joshua Franco in August 2021. 

The Nakatani-Moloney bout was a clash between two fighters ranked in the top-10 by The Ring. Entering Saturday’s bout, Nakatani and Moloney are ranked No. 6 and 8, respectively. 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]