Moloney eyes off blockbuster unification bout on home soil after surviving Sanchez stoush


Jason Moloney has survived an enthralling 12-round world title defence against Saul Sanchez in Canada, opening the door to a blockbuster unification fight in Australia.

The WBO bantamweight champion had to weather the Mexican’s early assault, using all of his ring craft and bravery to turn the tables and edge to victory via a tight points decision in Quebec City on Sunday (AEST).

One judge (114-114) could not split them, while the two others scored seven rounds in the 33-year-old’s favour to the challenger’s five (both 116-112) in Moloney’s first defence of the belt he won last May.

So tight and fluctuating was the contest that those judges often disagreed on who won which round. 

AND STILL! Jason Moloney retains his bantamweight world title????

???? 114-114
???? 116-112
???? 116-112#MoloneySanchez x #BeterbievSmith

— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) January 14, 2024

The Melbourne boxer’s general dominance through the middle stages of the fight and in the final two rounds – he took five of a possible six votes in the 11th and 12 rounds – was the difference.

It sets up the potential of a mouth-watering homecoming unification battle alongside George Kambosos Jnr, who is set to face Ukraine’s two-time Olympic champion and three-weight king Vasily Lomachenko in May for the vacant IBF lightweight.

“Saul Sanchez is a warrior,” Moloney said. “I felt like I did enough in the later rounds to retain my title. 

“I was going to do whatever it took to keep my title. The era of Mayhem is only beginning. I’d love to defend my world title Down Under in front of my Australian fans.”

Moloney, based in Kingscliff on the NSW-Queensland border, could face IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, five years after a loss to the Puerto Rican for that title.

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Or he could fight Junto Nakatani, who has moved up a division after knocking out Andrew’s twin brother Jason to win the WBO super flyweight title last year.

A third option is a date with WBA champion Takuma Inoue, whose brother Naoya Inoue stopped Moloney in 2020 to retain his IBF and WBA straps.

Moloney’s eyebrow was split by a headbutt early in the fight with Sanchez but as blood began to flow in the fourth round the Australian found his rhythm.

Sanchez came again in the later rounds, forcing Moloney to draw on his last reserves and stave off the flagging Mexican’s incredible flurry on tired legs in the last 20 seconds.

WHAT A FIGHT! ????#MoloneySanchez x #BeterbievSmith

— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) January 14, 2024

Earlier Russian-born, Sydney-based light heavyweight Imam Khataev improved to 6-0, dominating Poland’s Michal Ludwiczak in a second-round stoppage.

The 29-year-old, who won bronze for Russia at the Tokyo Games but now fights under the Australian flag, hasn’t been taken beyond the third round in any of his six professional victories.

Fellow Australian super middleweight Rohan Murdock fell to 27-3 after his corner conceded to red-hot Canadian Christian Mbilli. 

In the headline fight Artur Beterbiev made it 20 stoppages from 20 fights with a seventh-round stoppage of England’s Callum Smith to retain his WBO, WBC and IBG light heavyweight titles.

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