Jason Moloney might be the defending WBO bantamweight world champion, but the 33-year-old has unfinished business with another of the division’s champions.
In 2018, Moloney travelled to Florida to face IBF titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez.
It was just the second time Moloney had fought outside Victoria, and his first pro bout outside Australia, but he nearly pulled off a stunning upset.
Watch Moloney v Sanchez and Beterbiev v Smith SUN 14th JAN 12PM AEDT | Order Now with Main Event on Kayo Sports
After 12 intense rounds, many pundits and fans felt Moloney should have been awarded the win, but two ringside judges felt otherwise as Rodriguez claimed a massively controversial split decision victory.
Moloney is now a fully fledged world champion after claiming the WBO strap last year, but the loss to Rodriguez still burns.
“That’s definitely one I need to get back before my career’s done,” he told this masthead ahead of his title defence against Saul Sanchez on the undercard to Artur Beterbiev’s light heavyweight blockbuster with Callum Smith this weekend.
“It still eats away at me.
“Now I’m a champion, it’s not something I cry over, but if I watch it back, I still think I won the fight.”
Six years and a combined 16 fights later, a rematch is now possible.
Rodriguez didn’t hold onto his IBF title for long after his narrow victory over Moloney. The Puerto Rican was dropped three times on the way to a devastating second round knockout at the hands of the legendary Nayoa Inoue in his very next fight.
Meanwhile, fuelled by the memory of his robbery, Moloney returned to Australia, rebuilt his career and earned his own bout with Inoue in 2020.
He lasted longer than Rodriguez, but the result was the same, with the Japanese superstar stopping Moloney in the seventh round.
Once again, the Aussie went back to the gym and worked his way back towards title contention, and after Inoue left the division, Moloney eventually outpointed Vincent Astrolabio for the WBO title last year.
Three months later, Rodriguez beat Melving Lopez for the IBF strap.
It sets up a mouth-watering unification rematch, which could even happen in Australia later this year.
“I know he wants the fight, I want it, and hopefully we can get it on,” Moloney said. “I’m very confident I’ll beat him this time around.
“What makes me want it more is knowing how much I’ve improved since that fight.
“I know if we get in there again, I’ll beat the guy. I’m determined to make that fight happen.
“A win (this weekend), and if it’s up to me, I’ll have a unification bout in March or April in Australia.”
Beating Rodriguez also works in perfectly with Moloney’s plans to take over the entire division.
“As soon as I won the world title, it didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped,” he said. “Probably because I know I’m capable of more.
“Even though becoming a world champion was the dream, I always felt it was an achievable dream and I wanted more.
“So straight away, I was thinking, ‘Let’s become undisputed, let’s go bigger’.
“That’s because I know I can achieve something like that – I really believe I can beat everyone in the division.”
First though, Moloney knows he faces a tough task against the attack-first Sanchez.
“I know these fights and these unifications won’t happen if I slip up this weekend,” he said. “I’m treating this like it’s the hardest fight of my career.
“I know Sanchez will be so hungry fighting for a world title, so I’ve been in the gym making enormous sacrifices for this fight, being away from my family over the Christmas period.
“It’s just added fuel to the fire and I know that his best isn’t enough to beat me.”