Before Andrew Moloney and Jason Moloney headlined separate ESPN cards this week, Jason and Andrew squared up against one another in a game of table tennis. Jason won. Andrew did not. That went for both the fighting and the ping-pong.
The Australian twin brothers, Andrew first and then Jason, made their Las Vegas debuts, albeit with less of the usual fanfare, what with the number of people in attendance probably being kept to two hands.
Figuring out what went well for one and not the other is a fairly straightforward matter, with some minor variables: Jason, the bantamweight, fought the lesser of the two foes in Leonardo Baez, a late replacement; Andrew, the junior bantamweight, took on a guy in Joshua Franco for whom the conditions for an upset could hardly have been more favorable.
Franco is wedded to veteran Oscar Negrete in a cult hit trilogy, and Negrete was supposed to take on Jason — for parallelism’s sake, ‘spose. Even then, Franco was the more dangerous of those two, as he was younger and had the only win of the three-piece.
Turns out getting forged in that kind of fire was a good thing for Franco, because unlike poor Andrew, he never looked worried. As always, the caveat that boxing writers aren’t body language experts applies, but Andrew might have let the moment get to him, and it didn’t take long for him to start wasting a bunch of nervous energy bouncing around. (ESPN’s Timothy Bradley noted that he does this a lot. It looked… different, though.)
After a feeling-out round, Franco established his left uppercut, then built off that with a left hook, then started with the overhand rights. The first eight rounds were even on the cards, and in the punch numbers, too. It’s just that it felt like Moloney was getting beaten up. Moloney landed well-placed lefts to the body often; Franco didn’t show signs of giving a damn. Moloney’s marked up face, and shifting game plan — he eventually began not fighting in such a straight line — betrayed the damns that he gave.
The beating up accelerated over the final four rounds, punctuated by an 11th round knockdown that helped Franco ensure the decision win. Franco, his trainer said, had his best-ever preparation, an oddity amid the Covid-19 limitations. Nothing against the Moloneys’ trainer, who coached Danny Green, but the roster of guys Robert Garcia has taken to the bigs is considerable. His fighters always demonstrate offensive excellence and a grim reaper demeanor. Franco even had the good defense!
Bradley hammered away all night long at Franco’s mid-range game. It was good, sure. What were Moloney’s alternatives, given the limitations he showed coming in? He wasn’t winning on the inside or outside, either.
In other words, Moloney may have faced the best opponent of his career on the best night of his professional life. It earned him a trip to the hospital, citing dizziness and nausea. It was perforated eardrums; having two busted ears rarely occasions a “thank goodness,” but it could’ve been worse.
Jason had the benefit — strange phrasing here, again — of having lost before, and against someone in Emmanuel Rodriguez who was no joke. He’d already discovered what could cause him to fall, and perhaps Andrew will gain that perspective, too. Jason knew what he wanted to do: Get inside and stay there against the taller opponent. Maybe, also, he had familial pride in his spine to fight for.
Let’s just go back to the ground truth, however. Baez was no Negrete. He was no Franco. And he got stopped in the 7th round.
Jason playfully taunted Andrew following his table tennis victory with, “You’re only as good as your last game.” Sometimes, too, you’re only as good as your last opponent allows you to be.
(Photo: Jason Moloney connects on Leonardo Baez; via)
[Oh also, this:]
24 hours later, we’re still wrapping our minds around that crazy double uppercut from last night’s show. 😮 pic.twitter.com/FD0VEBu3jQ
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) June 27, 2020