Putting on a surgical display, unified bantamweight world titleholder Naoya Inoue defeated Jason Moloney by seventh-round knockout Saturday night at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Showing the form and class that have him ranked as ESPN's No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Inoue scored two knockdowns on his way to an impressive performance.
After a relatively even first two rounds, Inoue (20-0, 17 KOs) began to get his offense started, throwing a variety of power punches from both hands. But early on, it was the speed and quickness of "The Monster" that was impressive. It wasn't just his hand speed, but his ability to move in and out with his feet, that allowed him to control the distance and tempo.
He was actually boxing his way to victory in the beginning stages of the contest.
Eventually, his lethal arsenal began to leave its mark on Moloney (21-2, 18 KOs), who boxed well at times but simply couldn't match Inoue's power. In the sixth round, a quick counter left hook sent Moloney down.
Then in the seventh, a short right hand sent Moloney down for the second time. While he tried to get up, he did not have his senses, and referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight at 2:59 of the round.
"The final punch, the finishing punch, I'm very happy and satisfied with that punch," said Inoue, who has won titles at junior flyweight and junior bantamweight, and currently holds the WBA and IBF belts at 118 pounds. "Moloney has a great defense, and it was very difficult to get through. The two punches you mentioned are something we really practiced in Japan a lot, and I was able to perform well and use it, and I'm very happy with that."
Originally slated to face WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero on April 25 before that fight was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Inoue, 27, has his sights on adding to his vast collection of belts.
"The [Nordine] Oubaali-[Nonito] Donaire [winner] with the WBC title and Casimero with the WBO, they're within my sights are far as fights go," Inoue said.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, whose company signed Inoue to a promotional deal after he defeated Donaire last year in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament, called Inoue "a special fighter."
"I haven't seen a young fighter like that in a long time," Arum said. "And credit to Jason Moloney for fighting like a warrior. He gave it his absolute best."
Arum told The Athletic that an Inoue-Casimero fight should be expected by March.