The formidable Naoya Inoue demonstrates his quality against Jason Moloney

IF he has not done so already, Jason Moloney will study the footage of his seventh-round stoppage defeat to Naoya Inoue and come to the conclusion that there were things he could have done better. But the one thing he should not dare suggest is that it would have made a difference in the ultimate outcome. Inoue was simply a level above. Great fighters tend to make very good ones look ordinary. That was the case here.

Inside Top Rank’s Bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Moloney, from Melbourne, was confident and had the right plan, but executing it against the defending WBA and IBF bantamweight champion was an insurmountable chore. At the time of the stoppage (2-59), Moloney had nary a moment of success.

Inoue was patient in outboxing Moloney from long range
over the first two rounds, but by the third he upped the tempo, hurting the
challenger with a left uppercut. Moloney predicted beforehand that he would
take Inoue to a place he had never been before, but was fast becoming a prophet
in reverse. The quick-handed Tokyo man hurt Moloney with a right cross in the
fifth. The rare times that Moloney got Inoue on the ropes he was ineffective.

Inoue’s versatility was on display in the sixth when
he dropped Moloney with a left hook while going back. Moloney was cut and being
outclassed when it ended suddenly as the seventh round was winding down. A
right cross down the slot caused Moloney to crumble, his right leg seemingly
bending in half. The blow devastated him. Moloney rolled over and bravely tried
to beat the count, but would not have even had referee Kenny Bayless not waved
it over at ‘eight’.

In the chief support, US Olympian Mikaela Mayer, from Colorado Springs, realised her dream of becoming a world champion when she beat Ewa Brodnicka by a unanimous decision to win the WBO super-featherweight crown. Judges Lisa Giampa and Dave Moretti had it 100-88, while Steve Weisfeld tallied 99-89.

Brodnicka had officially lost the title on the scales
when she failed to make weight. For Mayer, that was irrelevant. She still
needed to defeat her Warsaw opponent to leave the ring a champion. It became
apparent a couple of rounds into the contest that would be the case.

Mayer, well schooled by trainer Al Mitchell, scored
with long lefts behind a tight defence. As the match progressed Brodnicka’s
holding became an issue with referee Celestino Ruiz, and she had points
deducted in both the sixth and seventh rounds. Brodnicka, to her credit, mixed
it up in the last few rounds, trying to preserve her unbeaten record, but Mayer
had all the answers on this night.

In a hard-fought 10-rounder, 2016 Olympic gold medallist Robson Conceicao looked to be slightly fortunate to escape with a unanimous verdict over Californian Luis Coria. Conceicao had two point deductions for low blows and was knocked down in the second round. On my card at least, that tipped the balance to Coria 94-93, but judge Erik Cheek saw it for the Brazilian by the same margin. Don Trella and John McKaie both marked 95-92.

When you consider that referee Mike Ortega might have
gone a bit overboard in penalising Conceicao twice, it becomes hard to argue
with the decision. Coria let a golden opportunity pass in that second round.
Conceicao was badly hurt after getting hit with a left hook, struggling up at ‘nine’
with a couple of minutes remaining in the session, but Coria was unable to apply
the finisher.

New Jersey’s Julian Rodriguez had an easy night
in stopping Jose Eduardo Lopez Rodriguez at 2-10 of the third round of a
scheduled 10. Right from the start the Mexican’s body language indicated he did
not relish the assignment. That was validated by his four trips to the canvas,
one each in the first and second rounds, then twice in the third, before referee
Robert Hoyle halted it.

Top Rank has big plans for Jared Anderson. The
talented 20-year-old from Ohio completely overwhelmed his Californian opponent,
Luis Eduardo Pena, stopping him at 2-46 of the opening round of their slated
six. It was not enjoyable watching Pena being forced to the ropes and having to
endure power punches to the body and strong uppercuts and hooks to the chin. Referee
Ortega stopped it before Pena went down, but should have intervened earlier.

Japan’s Andy Hiraoka had New Jersey’s Rickey
on the canvas three times before their scheduled eight-rounder was
halted in the fourth (2-20).

THE VERDICT Moloney can do nothing to prevent Inoue from notching his 20th straight win.

Naoya Inoue (117 1/2lbs), 20-0 (17), w rsf 7 Jason Moloney (118lbs), 21-2 (18); Mikaela Mayer (130lbs), 14-0 (5), w pts 10 Ewa Brodnicka (131lbs), 19-1 (2); Robson Conceicao (129lbs), 15-0 (7), w pts 10 Luis Coria (128 1/2lbs), 12-4 (7); Julian Rodriguez (142 1/2lbs) 21-0 (14), w rsf 3 Jose Eduardo Lopez Rodriguez (142 1/2lbs), 29-8-2 (15); Andy Hiraoka (140lbs), 16-0 (11), w rsf 4 Rickey Edwards (141lbs), 12-5 (3); Jared Anderson (246lbs), 7-0 (7), w rsf 1 Luis Eduardo Pena (229 1/2lbs), 6-2 (6).

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