Moloney’s final flurry not enough, loses title in Tokyo

Murray Wenzel |

Jason Moloney has relinquished his WBO bantamweight world boxing title in Japan.
Jason Moloney has relinquished his WBO bantamweight world boxing title in Japan.

Jason Moloney’s desperate attempts for a final-second knockout have fallen short, the Australian losing his WBO bantamweight world boxing title to Japanese upstart Yoshiki Takei in Tokyo.

Australia is now without a current male world boxing champion after the 33-year-old’s unanimous points loss – his first in four years – to a man in just his ninth professional boxing fight.

In his second title defence Moloney (27-3) set an attendance record for an Australian boxer. 

And the 55,000 that filled the Tokyo Dome on Monday night almost witnessed a miracle final-round knockout from the champion.

A former world kickboxing champion, Takei dominated the first five rounds. 

He landed no less than 10 punches in each round while Moloney made contact on no more than six.

The Aussie found some rhythm in the middle rounds but Takei, who copped a point deduction in the second round for excessive low blows, steadied again and looked set to cruise to his maiden title.

But with one minute left in the 12th round his guard dropped and Moloney sensed his chance, unloading with a flurry of punches that left Takei wobbling around the ring.

Moloney’s last-gasp swings left the challenger draped on the ropes, Takei saved by the bell and safe in the knowledge he’d done enough in the earlier rounds to clinch a maiden title.

Two judges scored the fight 116-112 while another gave it to Takei 117-110. 

Pound-for-pound star attraction Naoya Inoue – the last man to beat Moloney – then defended his undisputed junior featherweight status in an enthralling battle with Mexican Luis Nery.

Nery knocked the champion down in the first round but the unbeaten Inoue’s reply was swift, sending him to the canvas in the next round and again, for good, in the sixth round.

An Australian could be his next target, unbeaten IBF mandatory challenger Sam Goodman went in the ring to bullishly challenge the champion post-fight.

It was an invitation the the Japanese accepted with a curt handshake and – provided Inoue doesn’t move up another weight class – is a fight Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is considering for as early as September.

Moloney’s defeat again robbed him of the prospect of holding a world title at the same time as his twin brother Andrew after they won and lost respective world title fights a week apart in the United States last year.

The timeline on his path back to a world title strap is now clouded, however it is all but certain to go through Japan given four different men from the country now hold the various bantamweight titles.

Andrew will fight in Perth on Sunday, challenging Mexico’s Pedro Guevara for the vacant WBC interim super flyweight belt and the chance to replace his brother as the country’s sole male world champion.

He could hold that mantle for mere minutes, with George Kambosos Jr to fight Vasiliy Lomachenko for the vacant IBF lightweight title in the main event.

Forced to relinquish his IBF title earlier this year, unbeaten cruiserweight Jai Opetaia has the chance to win it back in a rematch with Mairis Briedis in Saudi Arabia later this month.