At the beginning of the 20th century Australia was considered a Mecca for professional boxing.
On Boxing Day of 1908 American heavyweight World champion Jack Johnson had arrived in Sydney to face off against Canadian Tommy Burns to defend his title in front of 20,000 spectators. It was both men’s third outing in Australia, further adding to the notion of the country being a desired location for the Worlds best fighters. Many World-class boxers would take the 3-week long journey by boat from America to Sydney with the promise of good conditions and even better purses.
Fast forward to modern day Australia, the difference is incomparable. Like in many nations, boxing plays second fiddle to the country’s more cherished sports, in this case Aussie rules football and cricket reign supreme. Despite Australian boxing’ demise from the lofty heights of the early 1900’s, the nation has produced great fighters such as; Jeff Darcy, Dave Sands, Lionel Rose, Jeff Fenech and more recently; Kostya Tszyu, Anthony Mundine, Michael Katsidis and Jeff Horn have all experienced World title success.
Unbeaten Andrew Moloney is another chasing glory at the highest level but his career could have panned out very differently. He says: “Like pretty much all Aussie kids I grew up loving Australian Rules football, it was my dream growing up to play footie for a living. It’s actually the reason why I started boxing; it was just a free season thing to keep fit and to get a bit of an edge on the rest of the players. It turned into a love for boxing from a place where I just wanted to get fit.
“I then stopped playing footie and focused full-time on boxing, it was never something I thought that was going to turn into a career, but it’s turned out that way. I got addicted, kept training and kept winning and then made it onto the Australian team and had a good amateur career. Then decided this is what I’m going to do for a living.”
It’s a familiar tale of a young man entering a boxing gym as a way to keep fit unbeknown of his ability to create a career towards the top of the sport. However a meeting by chance with a fighter he idolised as child was to take Andrew and his brother’s careers to the next level.
“Danny Green was someone who me and my brother first really idolised,” Moloney continues. “We watched all his fights and we were fascinated by his career. We watched his documentary and we really supported him. He’s the reason why we really fell in love with boxing as kids. He would fill out big arenas back then fighting for World titles.
It’s funny actually because I had about 5 professional fights and had never met Danny before in person, but we bumped into him over in America before the Mayweather Vs Pacquiao fight, which is funny as we are both Australians. It was the first time I actually met him and had a chat.
“At the time we didn’t have anyone managing us or have a promoter or anything like that. When we got back to Australia we met up with Danny for lunch and he really helped us out from there. He introduced us to Tony (Tolj) and Angelo (Hyder) who manage us now and just really helped guide our professional careers.
We then fought on 3 of his undercards, which were big events over here and it was really good for exposure. Then his trainer (Angelo Hyder) once Danny retired started training me and Jason. We have really tried to follow in his (Danny Green) footsteps.”
At 18-0 super flyweight Andrew Moloney alongside twin brother Jason are Australia’s next big hopes for world honours. Brother Jason is coming off a split-decision defeat to Emmanuel Rodriguez in the bantamweight WBSS quarter-final, with Andrew getting ready for a WBA title eliminator bout against Miguel Gonzalez on March 22nd in Chile.
“The WBA have ordered that (Kal) Yafai fight his mandatory, who is Norbelto Jiminez from the Dominican Republic. They should be fighting very soon I believe, I haven’t seen any announcement but I believe they will be fighting very soon. Then myself and Miguel Gonzalez are sitting at number 2 and number 3. The WBA have ordered an eliminator between myself and Gonzalez to see who moves into the mandatory position. Depending on who wins between Yafai and Jiminez (they) should end up fighting the winner between me and Gonzalez for the (WBA) belt.”
Moloney continued on the complexity of plotting a route up the WBA rankings and said: “We have actually had our eye on Gonzalez for a long time now as he’s been sitting high up on the WBA rankings for a few years now. My manager Tony (Tolj) first reached out to their team in August 2017 for us to fight each other. We kept in contact, but they didn’t seem to keen for us to fight each other at the time. I then got myself to number 3 within the WBA and then the WBA ordered an eliminator. I was delighted when I heard (of the eliminator), as it’s a fight I wanted for a long time and it’s a huge step towards the world title. We then started negotiations and were offered a good deal to go out to Chile.
“Obviously you will always benefit from a fight in your own back yard, but I’m confident that I can beat him convincingly enough that it’s not going to be a problem. I’m not too fussed about travelling either, as an amateur I fought all over the world; it’s not going to be an issue. It’s also going to be a great experience getting used to travelling as a professional and fighting in someone else’s back yard because it’s something I’m probably going to have to do when I get the chance to fight for a world title.”
Like many reading this article, I personally have no idea what professional boxing looks like in the mountain nation of Chile. Andrew struggled to give me some sort of insight.
“I’ve watched Gonzalez’s last fight which was at the same arena that we are going to fighting at. I’ve got a bit of a feel for what it’s going to be like, but I have no idea what the crowd is going to be like or what the build will be like over there. None of that is going to bother me anyway; I’m just exited to fighting in a World title eliminator and pushing myself into a mandatory position.”
With streaming service DAZN now throwing bags of money into global boxing, the opportunities for many World rated contenders are more plenty than ever seen before. Matchroom recently acquired the services of Australian based Irishman TJ Doheny, who currently holds the IBF super bantamweight title and is primed for a unification bout with Daniel Roman in April.
With DAZN and Matchroom making leaps into other previously unchartered territories – signing Croatian heavyweight Filip Hrgovic and setting up shop in Italy – surely the time is now for Andrew Moloney to take advantage of boxing’ current climate.“I think it’s great! Just from seeing over here all the shows that Eddie (Hearn) is putting on in the UK and America, he’s doing an awesome job! What he’s doing for the sport is extremely good and it’s obviously making the other networks up their game. It’s just a shame in Australia that we cannot actually get DAZN. I have heard a few whispers that DAZN might be extending out to Australia, so hopefully we can pick it up over here soon.”
In the midst of our conversation, it became apparent that Andrew and Australian boxing as a whole was in a state of struggle to be seriously recognised by its citizens. However in 2017 we saw the 52,000 capacity SunCorp Stadium in Brisbane packed out for a Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn WBO title fight, showing us that big time boxing can still take place on the island nation.
“Lately boxing hasn’t been televised to a great extent,” Moloney discusses. “Lately a lot of the fights will get replayed maybe a week or two later, which is on Foxtel. Over the last 6 months we have started to see the shows live more often and I’m hearing that this year they are going to be showing most of the shows live, which is good. It seems as if boxing is starting to build up over here…. slowly! Obviously it’s nowhere near as big as in the UK or America, but it sounds like it’s heading in the right direction. We can then start putting on bigger shows and start bringing out better opponents.”
Could the Moloney brothers be the catalyst to bring some much-needed consistency to Australian boxing? Andrew appeared slightly apprehensive, but clearly had some sort of hope.
“Over the years we have had some big names in Australia, such as; Danny Green, Anthony Mundine and more recently Jeff Horn who have brought out big names like Manny Pacquiao and filled out big stadiums. So basically it can be done, but you have to have a World title first for the Australian public to get behind you and show some real interest. It seems until you have a World title nobody really cares about you. For me, I would love to headline big shows in Australia but I believe first I need get my hands on a World title and then we can look at it.”
Andrew Moloney clearly has tunnel vision on the WBA title ahead of sparking a revival on his nations perception for professional boxing. For now, an away day in Chile is waiting.
Article by: Adam Noble-Forcey
Follow Adam on Twitter at: @Adam4cSports