If Naoya Inoue was looking to impress on the big stage of an ESPN+ main event, mission accomplished. Inoue improved his perfect professional record to 20-0 with a seventh-round knockout of Jason Moloney inside Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Conference Center.
Inoue showcased all the things that have propelled him near the top of the pound-for-pound list in boxing, but it was the trademark power of “The Monster” that left the biggest mark on the fight. A thudding left hook dropped Moloney in Round 6, signaling the beginning of the end. In Round 7, Inoue closed the show with a blazing overhand right that beat the lead hook of Moloney, sending the challenger crashing to the canvas and retaining Inoue’s WBA and IBF bantamweight championships.
Moloney was game throughout the fight, trying to work his way inside and dirty the fight up. Unfortunately for Moloney, Inoue had all the answers, thudding to the head with uppercuts and ripping hooks to the body when Moloney was able to close distance.
On the outside, Moloney didn’t have the speed to beat Inoue to the punch, leaving the challenger with few offensive options as the champion began to find success at every range.
“The final punch that I had, the finishing punch, I’m very happy and satisfied with that punch,” Inoue said after the victory. “Moloney has a great defense and it was very difficult to get through. The two punches are something I really practiced in Japan a lot.”
The win came in Inoue’s second trip to the United States — despite the promotion, Inoue fought in California in September 2017 — and was one fight after a near-unanimous 2019 Fight of the Year against Nonito Donaire. Inoue suffered a broken orbital bone against Donaire. The previously injured eye held up throughout the fight and Inoue said after the fight that he believed he learned from the blood and guts war with Donaire and brought those lessons to the ring against Moloney.
“As you go through fight to fight, you learn things from the previous fight,” He said. “I think I’m getting wiser and better.”
The loss was only the second of Moloney’s career, the first coming in his only ever bid for a world title, a split decision loss to Emmanuel Rodríguez in October 2018.