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Staff picks: Jason Moloney vs Leonardo Baez

Jason Moloney faces Leonardo Baez in Thursday’s Top Rank main event. Who wins?

Top Rank Boxing returns to ESPN on Thursday night with the other Moloney twin, as bantamweight contender Jason returns to action against Leonardo Baez in a 10-round main event.

Who wins? Our staffers make their picks.

Scott Christ

Of the Moloneys, I have always liked Jason a bit better. He’s been in a world title fight, a split decision loss to Emmanuel Rodriguez in the opening round of the WBSS bantamweight tournament, and proved in that one he can fight for sure. That also means he’s fought in the U.S. before and did OK — a loss, yes, but a very close one that easily could have gone the other way, it was a 7-5 type of fight either way and two of the 7-5 cards went to Rodriguez.

Leonardo Baez is a short-notice replacement for Oscar Negrete, and a good replacement given the whole situation everyone is dealing with right now. He’s a scrappy fighter, has a couple of losses, but at 24 he may be putting it together. His last three wins have all been solid, and now he’s got a chance to really prove himself. I do think Moloney will just have a bit too much for him, but I expect a really spirited effort from Baez and probably a fun fight to watch. I do not expect Jason to trip up as Andrew did Tuesday. Moloney TKO-7

Wil Esco

Wouldn’t you know it but Jason Moloney looks a lot like his brother Andrew inside the ring. And like his brother, Jason offers some steady work, but seems to utilize a little more movement than his twin. But obviously working in his favor is the fact that Jason’s original opponent, Oscar Negrete, suffered an eye injury necessitating a late replacement in Leonardo Baez. Baez doesn’t appear to have the best technical foundation as he’s often willing to throw uppercuts and hooks from an uncomfortable distance, and I think that’s going to catch up to him against better opposition. I’m going to take Moloney to force a stoppage in this fight too once he finds the openings. Moloney TKO-6

Patrick L. Stumberg

As much fun as Moloney-Negrete would have been, I have zero complaints about Baez as a replacement. He’s a hell of a scrapper, marching into the pocket behind an earmuff guard to throw hooks and uppercuts like he’s trying to kill whoever they hit. He also hasn’t been stopped since his ninth pro fight, when he met an unknown 1-1 countryman named Julio Cesar Martinez.

Praiseworthy as his moxie is, it’s far more likely to lead to a valiant defeat than a glorious triumph. Moloney is the far harder and faster puncher, one who successfully stood up to a solid hitter in Emmanuel Rodriguez and took over late. He’s not just happy but notably superior in the sort of firefight that Baez wants, and the latter’s four-inch height advantage doesn’t mean much when he prefers to trade inside. It’ll take a hell of a lot of punishment to do it, but Moloney beats him into submission late. Moloney TKO-8

Lewis Watson

It’s a case of third opponent lucky for Jason, as the Joshua Greer Jr. and Oscar Negrete fights both fell through, paving the way for the sizeable Baez. The Mexican challenge is unbeaten in his last six and at 5’ 9” will offer something different for the Australian contender to dismantle. Moloney delivered a sickening left hook to the body of Dixon Flores in his most recent victory and will no doubt be searching for a repeat against the long frame of Baez.

From what I’ve seen of the challenger he likes to throw long laboured hooks – Moloney should be well-positioned to counter with speed on his side. He’s been adamant at making a statement on his MGM debut, and I’m sure he will. Moloney KO-6

And the staff winner is...

Boxing Mania 6 Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Jason Moloney (4-0)!

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