The famous Australian editor and publisher Richard Walsh once observed that: “the ultimate accolade in Australia is to be a ‘good bloke’”.
It’s an epithet that describes the gregarious and ever-friendly Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) to a tee.
But come the end of October there’s another title that the Kingscliff-based 29-year-old is also desperate to assume – that of world bantamweight champion.
In order to achieve his dream, Moloney must dethrone Japanese phenomenon Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs).
The duo meet on October 31 in the Top Rank ‘bubble’ in Las Vegas and it’s a challenge the Australian is relishing.
“It’s exciting times,” Moloney tells Boxing Social in a voice that positively oozes excitement. “We’re right into the thick of it now. We’ve put together a good gameplan. We believe we’ve got what it takes to beat him.
“Inoue’s an exceptional fighter. He’s achieved everything that I want to achieve in the sport. He holds all these belts and he’s regarded as the number one bantamweight in the world. He’s in many people’s pound-for-pound lists, in the top three at least. He’s where I want to be. And that’s why I want to fight him.”
Truth be told, Moloney’s ‘good bloke’ demeanour makes it easy to overlook just what a fierce and ambitious competitor he is. The former Commonwealth 118lbs title-holder possesses a steely resolve and determination to squeeze every ounce of talent and hard work out of his eight-and-a-half-stone frame.
“I understand the enormous challenge that this fight is,” he admits. “But that’s what excites me and that’s why l’m in the sport – to be as good as I can be and go as far as I can.
“Beating Inoue is what dreams are made of. It will put me where I want to be – at the top of the division and as one of the superstars of the sport. That’s why I work so hard every single day and dedicate my life to the sport of boxing – to be at that top level.
“I’m not happy with winning fights that I should win against B level opponents, I want to be in the big fights and I’m confident that, if I perform at my best, I can beat anyone in the division. This is a great opportunity, I’ve got to get it right on the night. I think my best will be enough and now I’ve got my chance to prove it.”
Prior to Inoue’s most recent fight against Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight final, the 27-year-old had taken less than four rounds to demolish three world-class operators in Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Against Donaire though, ‘The Monster’ looked mortal.
As such, it’s a fight that has given Moloney considerable encouragement.
“Inoue is a very aggressive guy,” the Australian said. “He’s a very exciting fighter to watch. He always goes for the knockout and backs himself. But when you’re an extremely aggressive fighter you leave openings and he is a bit reckless at times.
“Donaire obviously showed that he can be hit and he can be hurt. And I plan on doing that. I’ve studied that fight. Donaire did a few good things and I plan on doing that and much, much more. I plan on putting him under a lot pressure and giving it everything I’ve got.”
Moloney has also been heartened by his own most recent performance – a seventh-round stoppage of Mexican tough guy Leonardo Baez. “I think it was probably the best performance of my career so far,” is his assessment.
“But there are still a bunch of things I want to improve on. I think that’s my greatest asset – I’m never satisfied. I always want to get better. And I think I’ve improved a lot since that fight already through my work in the gym.”
Moloney’s unshakeable confidence never tips into arrogance and nowhere is his faith in his own abilities better demonstrated than by his willingness to take on Inoue.
While WBO bantam champ John Riel Casimero seemed content to let a potential fight with the Japanese superstar slip away – and now squares off against Duke Micah on September 26 – Moloney insists there is no way he was going to pass up a shot at ‘The Monster’.
“Not for a second did we think about turning it down,” he insists. “I said to Tony [Tolj] my manager: this is the opportunity of a lifetime. If Casimero hadn’t turned it down I wouldn’t have got the opportunity and I’m very grateful for it.
“I think Inoue has plans to try and win all the belts and then move on to the next division and try and win titles in a fourth weight division. But he’s run into the wrong person. I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands.”
Such was Moloney’s eagerness he even started preparations for the contest before it was signed, sealed and delivered.
“I’m at the stage of my career where these big fights are only just around the corner, so as soon as the talk started me and my coach started watching Inoue and started planning as if the fight was happening,” he reveals. “It’s not all that far away now – just over seven weeks. Obviously, it’s a big relief now the fight has actually been signed and announced.
“We’ve organised a bit of sparring here in Australia and we’re going to go over to America about four or five weeks before the fight. We’ve just booking the flights at the moment. We want at least a month over there. Everything is organised over in America. I’ll be training in the Top Rank gym again. We’ll have the best preparations we possibly can.”
One area where Moloney possesses a clear advantage over Inoue is in terms of recent activity – he has fought twice since the Japanese boxer’s last outing. Furthermore, Moloney also has prior experience of the Top Rank ‘bubble’ from his victory against Baez, while Inoue will be entering the sterile and isolating environment for the first time.
“All those little one per centers can help,” Moloney stresses. “The fact I have been in the bubble and I have fought without a crowd already can only be an advantage. I’ll be going out there knowing exactly what I’m in for. I’ll be comfortable. I’ve done it before and he hasn’t so that’s an advantage to me.”
Boxing history also provides an inspiring Aussie antecedent that Moloney admits he is drawing inspiration from as October 31 approaches.
Back in 1968, the legendary Indigenous Australian pugilist Lionel Rose deposed Japan’s Fighting Harada in a bantamweight world title showdown in Tokyo, Japan, that is still talked about in reverent tones in Aussie boxing circles today.
“The similarities between that fight and this fight are pretty cool,” Moloney says. “That’s one of the best wins by an Australian boxer ever. If I can go over to Vegas and beat Inoue I think it will go down in history as one of the best wins by an Australian, too.
“It excites me to know that it can be done, it has been done before. That gives me the belief that I can go there and do the same and write a bit of similar history.”
Main image and all photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.