By: Sean Crose
The last time fans saw Naoya Inoue in the ring was last November. There he was, at the Super Arena in his native Japan, battling illustrious vet Nonito Donaire. Those who had thought or hoped that Donaire had lost his luster quickly learned that the former pound for pound ranked fighter still had a lot of bite. In fact, Inoue found himself in a war. It was a war, however, that the 26 year old was able to emerge victorious from. Then, after engaging in a fight of the year level battle, Inoue…was stranded amidst the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, however, Inoue is ready to return after almost a year out of the ring. This Saturday night, at the bubble in Vegas’ MGM Grand, the 19-0 WBA and IBF world bantamweight champ will face the 21-1 Jason Moloney in his first battle under the Top Rank Banner. The promotional outlet grabbed Inoue last year around the same time as the star’s unanimous decision win over Donaire. This will also mark the first time Inoue will fight in America since his 2017 WBO super flyweight title win over Antonio Nieves. It will only be Inoue’s second bout in the United States.
As for Moloney, the 29 year old Australian has only lost once, and that was by split decision to Emanuel Rodriguez in 2018. Moloney has gone on to win four straight, all within the distance. He was last seen retiring Leonardo Baez in the bubble at the MGM grand last June. The Rodriguez battle was for the IBF bantamweight title, which means Moloney will be fighting for that particular belt for the second time this weekend. A strong, straight puncher with solid footwork, Moloney is no slouch. He’s also from a fighting family, as his twin brother Andrew will be rematching Joshua Franco for the WBA super flyweight title on the Terence Crawford-Kell brook undercard in November.
Yet, although Moloney’s record and experience is impressive, it’s safe to say he’s never met anyone with Inoue’s skill set before. Inoue’s movement is impressive, his power frightening. One can almost feel the confidence exuding from the man as he plies his trade in the ring. Although Donaire went all twelve rounds with Inoue, Inoue’s previous eight opponents were all stopped within the distance. Indeed, only three of Inoue’s opponents have been able to last to the final bell. None have been able to emerge victorious. They call Inoue “Monster” for a reason.