Saturday night on ESPN+ (7:30 pm ET), WBA and IBF bantamweight titleholder Naoya Inoue makes his debut for Top Rank, as Japan’s “Monster” fights in the U.S. for the first time since 2017, facing Jason Moloney in a defense of his belts.
Can Moloney pull a shocker, or does Inoue’s show roll on toward more belts and a greater P4P argument? Our staffers weigh in.
I think Moloney’s going to do better than some expect. I don’t think he’s going to win or have an argument for his hand to be raised if he goes the distance, but I think he’s going to do better than some expect. I think he might nick a few rounds, and go deeper than most pick him to do. But I believe he gets stopped late when Inoue has just done too much accumulated damage. Moloney is tough as hell, he’s brave, and he doesn’t give up on fights — his bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez was not going well in the first half, but he rallied and made Rodriguez survive. That’s encouraging on one level, but on another he can’t afford that slow a start against Inoue, who will carve him up if that’s the case.
I like Moloney, I think he’s a very good fighter, I think he’s a legitimate contender, I think this is a really solid fight Top Rank have put together in the absence of the Inoue-Casimero unification we were meant to see in the spring. I don’t think he beats Inoue, but I don’t think he’ll do less than give an admirable effort. Inoue TKO-10
The Moloney twins seem like a good couple guys but there’s levels to this shit. While Jason Moloney is a perfectly suitable fighter for a certain level of opponent, he’s going up against a phenom here who will be really confident after coming off a big win over Nonito Donaire last time out. The one thing working in Moloney’s favor here is that Inoue did take some damage against Donaire, and if he can mix things up with Inoue in a way to compound that damage perhaps he can have some good moments in the fight.
Unfortunately I think Inoue is still young enough to be fully vibrant in this outing and he has the speed, power, and combination punching to make this difficult on just about anybody near his weight class. I think Moloney tries to fight a smart, cerebral fight, but ultimately gets overwhelmed by Inoue’s tenacity in the mid-rounds. I’ll take Inoue to win a second half stoppage. Inoue TKO-9
How to Watch Inoue vs Moloney
Patrick L. Stumberg
Jason Moloney is an excellent young fighter with a very real shot at winning a bantamweight belt. Just not the ones Inoue holds. He and “The Monster” share a wheelhouse, and Inoue’s just got way too much firepower for Moloney to mix it up inside the way he prefers. Plus, judging by the Donaire fight, Inoue’s got the durability to take Moloney’s best shot, further limiting the Aussie’s chances.
This is an APC against a main battle tank. Moloney doesn’t have the outfighting chops to beat Inoue at range and can’t hope to overwhelm him in the pocket. The best he can hope for is marking Inoue up a bit before inevitably succumbing to the division’s heaviest hands. Inoue KO-3
Inoue’s resume is building quickly. McDonnell, Payano, Rodriguez and Donaire were all rated in the top ten at bantamweight when the “Monster” came knocking, with Jason Moloney now the fifth man in a row on that list. A year of inactivity vs Moloney’s previous – and impressive – outing in the Bubble this summer seems to be the main reason to question Inoue’s credentials coming into this fight, coupled with a few hair-raising moments against Donaire in their 2019 Fight of the Year. Moloney is a solid operator but can often get hit too often. He’ll surely be targetting that right eye of Inoue after the Japanese fighter admitted he fractured his orbital bone last year, but will have to avoid the one-punch power of Inoue if he is able to drag the favourite into trouble. Moloney is tough and I’m backing him to hear the final bell whilst being competitive throughout. Inoue UD-12