Amid truly farcical scenes, WBA super-flyweight champion Joshua Franco somehow retained his title on a controversial No Contest verdict on Saturday, courtesy of an imperceptible headbutt, after an excruciating 26-minute replay review from the bumbling officials of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

In June, Franco had shocked Moloney in the cards but in their return in the ‘Bubble’ inside the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, the Australian was firmly in control, thoroughly dictating the first two rounds before the champion’s right eye closed.

The injury was deemed too serious to continue by the ringside doctor before the third round began with NSAC officials pouring over the footage for almost half an hour until eventually handing Franco a ‘get out of jail’ card.

Franco’s eye injury ended the fight before the real controversy began.
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images.

The NSAC’s replay official Robert Byrd and NSAC executive director Bob Bennett took over four times longer than the fight itself to review ESPN’s footage of that opening round.

The injury seemed to be caused by a punch with no headbutt apparent, but referee Russell Mora, the man on the spot, believed he saw an accidental clash of heads in the opening exchanges.

“They took this away from me. The injury was caused by a punch. I can’t believe this,” said a bemused Moloney. “I was in control of the fight and on my way to a clear victory. I deserved this win. I landed 50 punches on that eye. It was not even close.”

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum didn’t mince words. “This is an absolute disgrace. There was no headbutt,” he said. “Andrew Moloney should be the new champion.”

Main image and all photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images.