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Franco settles the score with Moloney in trilogy bout

After three bouts, Joshua Franco finally settled the argument, clearly outscoring Australian Andrew Moloney to win their trilogy and retain his WBA Regular super-flyweight belt at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night.

Scores were 116-112 on all three cards for the San Antonio box-fighter. 

In a three-fight series over the past 14 months, Franco had rallied late to beat Moloney on a split decision in June 2020 before escaping with a controversial No Decision last November. In that rematch, Moloney was in dominant form when the fight was halted in the second due to a Franco eye injury. The damaged eye appeared to be caused by a punch and should have awarded Moloney victory but the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled it was the result of a phantom headbutt after a 26-minute video review.

Moloney was, therefore, highly favoured to win their third meeting, but it was a re-energised Franco who took the spoils. He hustled and pressured the Australian to win a thoroughly merited decision.

A video replay also played its part in the seventh when referee Jack Reiss initially ruled a knockdown for Moloney after a tangle of feet. “We’re going to go to the replay, we’re going to go to the replay,” said third man to the Australian during the session before video footage overruled that call.

Otherwise, the outcome was rarely in doubt as Franco’s insistent jab and more fluid combinations dictated proceedings.

“I had to switch it up on him. He thought I was going to put pressure on him the whole time. That wasn’t working, so I had to switch it up and go to my boxing skills,” said Franco.

“I had fun with my rhythm, with my jab, my feet. I’m comfortable in there, and that’s what I did. We just told each other, all that [pre-fight] talking is part of the game, part of building the fight up. He’ll be world champion again. He’s a strong fighter. Nothing but respect to him. I wish him the best in his career.”

On the undercard, Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the legendary Muhammad Ali, won his pro debut in quick fashion as chants of ‘Ali, Ali’ rang out across the crowd. Middleweight Ali Walsh dropped Jordan Weeks in the opener with a right hand before a follow-up assault ended the contest. 

“This lived up completely to my expectations. It’s been an emotional journey this whole ride these last couple of months,” said Ali Walsh afterwards. “Obviously, my grandfather, I’m thinking about him so much. I miss him. It’s just an emotional journey, and thank you to Jordan Weeks and his people. Tough, tough kid. I think me and him made a little bit of history tonight.

“Honestly, it seems like a lot of pressure, but to me, it’s just my grandfather. To everyone else, to you guys and the crowd, he’s the greatest fighter who ever lived, maybe the greatest person. But to me, he’s the greatest grandfather.

“To hear those Ali chants was something that I’ll never forget. I didn’t expect that, to be honest, but it was special.”

Leading 140lbs contender Arnold Barboza, ranked No.3 by the WBO, notched another win by outscoring spirited Mexican Antonio Moran in a decisive victory. Scores were 100-90 and 99-91 (twice). The unbeaten Californian battered Moran early, but the Mexican shrugged off facial damage and a cut nose to last the course.

“Moran is a true Mexican warrior. I thought I’d get the knockout, but he ate a lot of punches. My goal is to get that world title shot, but I am going to keep going until I make that a reality. I want any of the big names at 140 pounds,” said Barboza.

Meanwhile, two-time world bantamweight title challenger Jason Moloney outpointed Joshua Greer over 10 rounds (scores were 98-92, twice, and 96-94) and former US amateur star Karlos Balderas made a winning Top Rank debut with a second-round blitz of Fidel Cervantes in a 130lbs encounter.

“I’m back and better than ever,” said Balderas. “Even with this victory, I have things to work on. I’m going straight back to the gym to get ready for the next one. Thanks to Top Rank for the opportunity and my manager, Sam Katkovski, for making this happen. I’m only getting started.”

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.