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Staff picks: Andrew Moloney vs Joshua Franco

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Andrew Moloney makes his U.S. debut in a “title defense” against Joshua Franco on Tuesday.

Top Rank Boxing returns to ESPN on Tuesday at 8 pm ET, featuring the return of WBA “world” junior bantamweight titleholder Andrew Moloney, who makes his U.S. debut against Joshua Franco. It’ll be the first 12-round main event we’ve seen since BOXING CAME BACK! in The Bubble.

So who wins? Our staffers pick it.

Scott Christ

I like the Moloney twins, I think they’re both legit contenders, I think they both can fight, and frankly I think both of them should win this week. But I’m picking against Andrew for two reasons:

  1. It’s fun! I should have gone with that nagging gut feeling and taken Plania over Greer last week, but I didn’t.
  2. Andrew, despite being the twin with no losses, has looked the more vulnerable fighter of the two, at least to me.

A lot of that goes back to his fight last November against Elton Dharry, a scrapper he was expected to beat handily, and if you just looked at the BoxRec, it’d appear he did, right? Andrew got a stoppage and was up 78-74, 79-73, and 79-73 when the fight was stopped after eight on a cut.

But that fight was a war. Dharry had Moloney reeling in the fifth round, badly hurt, and should have scored a knockdown, but the referee missed Moloney’s knee touching the canvas. I’m not trying to blast Moloney for this, either, as he held on and then fought back really nicely, putting a beating on Dharry until the stoppage, which was a fair one as Dharry was basically fighting one-eyed at that point.

Franco is no legendary talent, but neither was Dharry. And Franco is battle-tested from his trilogy with Oscar Negrete, and he also has a loss, so he’s not going to be tentative about his “0” or anything like that. This is for a secondary world title belt, so Franco should be all the way up for it. I’m not picking it this way because I see any particular way that Franco has some big edge on Moloney; I have $0 riding on the outcome of this fight and just have a bit of a gut feeling. Less of one than I had about Plania last week, to be fair. Franco SD-12

Wil Esco

Top Rank keeps the action coming with another fight that — unless I’m completely off-base — should go according to script. The 29-year-old twin from Australia has racked up an undefeated record through 21 fights and was specifically tabbed by Top Rank to help bring boxing back after its hiatus. Moloney isn’t really a dynamic fighter with fast hands or feet, but he’s pretty steady working behind his tight guard.

Franco, on the other hand, has gone through three nip-and-tuck fights with Oscar Negrete in recent years, two of which resulted in draws, which I believe is indicative of his ceiling as a fighter. Franco isn’t trash or anything, but I don’t think he offers anything in this fight that Moloney shouldn’t be able to cope with, stylistically. I’d probably lean towards a decision but I have a slight hunch that Moloney will step on the gas in the second half to force a late stoppage. Moloney TKO-9

Patrick L. Stumberg

Moloney’s fight with Elton Dharry revealed what may be a key weakness in the Aussie’s style: as sharp as his jab and combination punching are, he’s so linear in his advance that he’s vulnerable to catch-and-pitch counters. Unfortunately for Franco, I’m not sure he has the tools to properly exploit that. Oscar Negrete, a far more limited technician than Moloney, consistently troubled him with his pressure and volume despite offering a plethora of clean countering opportunities that Franco lacked the composure or firepower to capitalize on.

Honestly, it’s hard to see anything going Franco’s way. Moloney’s jab is the more potent by a fair margin, he’s crisper with his combinations, and he looks to hit a fair bit harder. Much as I’m rooting for my fellow San Antonian, I don’t see him making Top Rank regret their investment in the Aussie twins. Moloney UD-12

Lewis Watson

It’s nice to see Franco in with a fighter other than Oscar Negrete. He shared 30 rounds with “Jaguar” over 10 months, underlining his tenacity in the pocket throughout those three contests (two of which he drew).

This work-rate and relentless throwing that Franco has previously displayed should come undone against a heavier-hitting Moloney. The Australian “Monster” is unlikely to waste his output and may force Franco to think twice about trying to live in his boots. Moloney is slick and should be able to wear down the challenger in the first half of the fight before stopping him late. Moloney TKO-9

And the staff winner is...

Boxing Mania 6 Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Andrew Moloney (3-1)!