On Thursday, it seemed as if Jason Moloney wasn’t just fighting for himself, but for his family’s honor. Forty-eight hours after his twin brother, Andrew, lost his debut in the United States and his WBA 115-pound title against Joshua Franco, having both of them lose in the same week would’ve been disastrous.
There absolutely was added pressure on Jason as he stared down the tough Leonardo Baez, an underdog who had significant money bet on him in the lead-up to the fight at sportsbooks. That betting trend was a mirror of what happened with Franco in Tuesday night’s main event against Andrew, and with Mike Plania against the favored Joshua Greer Jr. on June 16.
Bets on Plania and Franco paid off, but instead of wilting under the pressure, Jason impressively broke down the taller Baez. By the end of the seventh round, as Baez was cut and bleeding over both eyes, his corner saved him further punishment by stopping the fight.
Make no doubt about it — Jason Moloney is a legitimate bantamweight contender. He closed hard in his lone loss to Emanuel Rodriguez in 2018 (at the time undefeated and the defending IBF belt holder), but that experience has seemingly made Moloney a better fighter.
Perhaps it’s something Andrew can take away from this experience.
“My brother told me he loved me and that he was proud of me,” Jason said after his victory. “He’ll be back better than ever. Trust me.”
Moloney found success fighting on the inside
Moloney fought a brilliant tactical fight against Baez. With an understanding that the taller Baez had longer limbs, and liked to move forward, Moloney decided to step inside on him and use compact punches, banging away at Baez time and again. Baez was never able to establish any momentum.
While Baez threw wide punches, Moloney consistently stamped him to the right side of his body with left hooks that softened up Baez. He consistently smothered Baez by getting in on his chest and then made sure his head was positioned near Baez’s shoulders so that he didn’t give Baez a clear target.
With the victory, Moloney showed why all four major sanctioning bodies have him rated in the top 5.
Not so ‘Super’ Nova
Abraham Nova remained undefeated with a 10-round decision win over Avery Sparrow, but it wasn’t the eye-opening victory many had hoped for. But as legendary trainer George Benton used to say, “Win tonight, look good in the next one.”
Sparrow is skilled but lacks power, and in the first half of the bout his flicking jab and upper body movements seemed to befuddle Nova, who was overly cautious. Finally, the superior punching power and strength of Nova carried him to victory. The actual scores (99-91, 97-93 and 96-94) don’t reflect how close this fight was. There is an argument to be made that Sparrow could’ve had his hands raised in victory.
With that said, Sparrow is a difficult guy to figure out. He has pulled off upsets on late notice before, including his win over Jose Lopez in 2017. Perhaps this was more about style than actual ability with this performance. But Nova, who is rated No. 7 by the WBO, didn’t give a real indication that he is ready to tangle with the elite at 130. According to Carl Moretti of Top Rank, Nova will be matched with former WBO champion Masayuki Ito in a few months. We’ll find out a lot about Nova if that matchup comes to be, as he won’t have to go looking for a fight against Ito — it will come right to him.
Gonzalez-Ruiz needs more time
Orlando Gonzalez-Ruiz is a legitimate prospect, and there’s a good chance that he could be the next fighter from Puerto Rico to win a world title. But in earning his 15th pro victory, Gonzalez-Ruiz showed that while he has talent, he is still a ways away from the upper echelon at featherweight.
Yes, he knocked down Luis Porozo twice, but in between those two big moments, Gonzalez-Ruiz was often lunging and reaching with his left hand. His attack looked one-dimensional at times, which made it easier for Porozo, whose awkward attack — boxing off his back foot in a crouch for much of the night — allowed him to evade Gonzalez-Ruiz’s preferred attack.
Gonzalez-Ruiz needs a few things: a more consistent jab, the development of a right hook and an understanding of the usage of feints, which will be key to his development. He’s going places, but he’s just not there yet. Luckily, he’s still only 24.
The value of ‘3rd Degree’ Burns
While he ended up on the losing side of a split decision against Reymond Yanong, you can’t help but admire Clay “3rd Degree” Burns. No, he’ll probably never be a world champion or earn a chance to fight for a world title, but fighters like Burns are boxing’s blue-collar workers who help the sport move along. They’re tough, solid and give a good night’s effort every time out, and that type of fighter has an incredibly valuable role to play within boxing’s ecosystem.
Burns’ record is a bit upside down (he fell to 9-8-2 after Thursday’s defeat), but his previous two losses came to Patrick Harris and Francisco Ochoa, whose records were a combined 33-0. Current WBC lightweight world titlist Devin Haney and undefeated prospect Hector Tanajara have also crossed paths with Burns. When a matchmaker needs a guy to give an up-and-comer some quality rounds and experience, fighters like Burns get the call. So far, he has never been stopped in a professional bout.
Despite the defeat on Thursday, Burns will once again get the call to face another prospect down the line. And rest assured, he won’t hesitate to accept it, and some young fighter will be better off for having faced him.