Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs) and Andrew Moloney (21-2, 14 KOs) know each other all too well. Since June of last year, they have fought three times and only against each other.
Their first fight ended with Franco taking Moloney’s WBA Super Flyweight title by unanimous decision, serving the Aussie with his first (and only) loss. Their rematch in November of last year ended in controversy, as the fight was ruled a no decision after the second round due to an accidental headbutt that, well, didn’t actually happen.
Moloney closed Franco’s left eye with a series of stiff jabs that somehow the referee confused with a clash of heads (in boxing, the judges aren’t always the only ones that are blind). This bizarre result allowed Franco to retain his title and led to a third fight Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Hard Rock Casino.
Headlining the Top Rank event on ESPN, the two men renewed hostilities and Andrew Moloney once again left the ring in disappointment. On this night, there would be no theft due to referee incompetence, only a better, cleaner performance by Joshua Franco that resulted in a unanimous decision victory with all three judges scoring the fight 116-112 – a score that seemed eminently fair.
An active first round ended with Franco landing a hard left hook that left Moloney buzzed. It was the sharpest blow of a round which saw Franco outlanding Moloney by a margin of 15-6. Moloney found his rhythm a little in the second round, outworking Franco and scoring the flashier blows. Moloney often seemed manic and more desperate to land – as if he could feel what the weight of a second loss would mean – while Franco appeared to be more comfortable in the ring and therefore, more accurate with his punches.
Rounds three and four felt relatively even, with perhaps a slight edge to Franco. However, the fifth round found Franco landing frequently and accurately. It was pointed out in the fifth by one of the commentators that it seemed like Moloney had to work twice as hard as Franco to get work done – absolutely true. As the first half of the fight closed, Franco appeared to be in command.
Then, halfway through the seventh, Moloney threw a straight right down the middle that seemed to cause Franco to fall to the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss scored the fall as a knockdown, but promised to go to replay where it was revealed that the punch did not land, that it was merely a loss of balance on Franco’s part, and the knockdown was overturned. After the non-knockdown, the fight carried on much as it had before with Moloney frantically trying to get to Franco and Franco calmly getting the better of most of the exchanges. The punch stats revealed in the ninth round showed that my eyes weren’t fooling me, as Franco held a 106-67 advantage.
Both fighters were active, but only one was accurate, and that was Franco.
The final three rounds carried on in the same verse-chorus-verse fashion as the rest of the bout, with Moloney working like hell to get to Franco, but simply not keeping up with Franco’s creativity and accuracy. This was a very competitive fight between two nearly evenly matched fighters, but not quite. Unfortunately for Moloney, again, that “not quite” status belonged to him. You could tell by the look on Moloney’s face throughout the night that he knew it too.
Moloney fought on manfully, but he simply was not as good as Franco on this evening. You’d be hard-pressed to describe Franco’s performance as dominant, but his victory was clear.
For Franco, I suspect he will finally get to fight someone else, which I suspect will be a relief. Moloney will likely move on to other opponents too, but I doubt there will be any relief for him as he moves on from this trilogy.