Moloney carries Aussie title load into Tokyo defence

Murray Wenzel |

Bantamweight Jason Moloney is Australia’s only current world boxing champion.
Bantamweight Jason Moloney is Australia’s only current world boxing champion.

Two decades of toil will reverberate in Jason Moloney’s head when he puts his WBO bantamweight belt – and Australian boxing pride – on the line in a $30 million Tokyo tussle.

Tim Tszyu’s controversial loss to Sebastian Fundora in Las Vegas and Jai Opetaia’s decision to relinquish his IBF cruiserweight status to remain active has left the pint-sized Moloney as Australia’s sole boxing world champion.

Moloney’s third defence will come on May 6 against former kickboxing world champion Yoshiki Takei (8-0) in the Tokyo Dome. 

A 55,000-strong sell-out crowd will watch the stadium’s first boxing event since Mike Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas in 1990.

Moloney (27-2) opted to defend his title in Tokyo on a card headlined by superstar Naoya Inoue, the last man to beat Moloney in 2020, rather than take his place on the George Kambosos-Vasiliy Lomachenko card less than a week later in Perth.

Now at super bantamweight, Inoue will put all four belts on the line against Luis Nery, a gate-taking of more than $30 million putting the event on par with the biggest of Las Vegas blockbusters.

Moloney’s twin brother Andrew is fighting for an interim belt on the Kambosos card, Liam Paro is in talks for his own world title fight, and Opetaia will seek to win back his status against Mairis Briedis in Saudi Arabia later in May.

But Jason Moloney will enter the ring as Australia’s only current champion, having made a successful first defence in a brutal Canadian stoush with American Saul Sanchez in January.

“There’s been points in my career where you think if you lose this one it might be it,” Moloney told AAP.

“That scares me. But the reality is, unless you’re at the very top, it’s not rewarding enough to hang around.

“So this is where I need to capitalise on all those years of hard work and years when I’ve made bugger-all money.”

Jason Moloney dug deep to prevail in his first title defence, against Saul Sanchez in Canada. (HANDOUT/Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

Victory could see Moloney share the bantamweight titles with Japanese trio Junto Nakatani, Takuma Inoue and Ryosuke Nishisa.

That sets up the likelihood of unification bouts in a country that rewards boxing’s smaller men financially like no other.

“It’s the most I’ve earned in my career, but we’re still on our way to the life-changing money,” Moloney said ahead of his Japanese debut.

“It’ll open some big doors and provide the fruits to the hard work over the years.

“It can all pay off and I need to stay focused. Twenty years of training and I’m in the position now where I can walk away having achieved and set up my family, which not many can say they’ve done.

“Boxing, it’s tough; so many give so much and get so little.”