Emmanuel Rodriguez’s first world title defense didn’t come easy, but ultimately proved to be successful.
Rodriguez defeated mandatory challenger Jason Moloney by split decision (115-113, 113-115, 115-113) to retain his IBF bantamweight world title. The fight was also a quarterfinal bout in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament.
Just like in his last fight against Paul Butler to win the IBF title, Rodriguez started the fight unloading body shots to Moloney. Rodriguez would go on to keep landing the left hand with great success in the first three rounds. Afterwards, Moloney started to come back and get the better of some exchanges in the middle rounds. Still, that did not stop Rodriguez from landing numerous power punches, including a right hand to the side of Moloney’s head in the fifth round that nearly knocked him down.
Moloney then started to win most of the rounds in the second half of the fight just as Rodriguez’s energy started to wane. Moloney pressed forward in the final four rounds, nearly making a major comeback, but Rodriguez had already built up a lead too big for Moloney to recover without a knockdown. The loss snapped Moloney's undefeated start to his pro career with his last win being a sixth-round stoppage win over Kohei Kono back in May.
Rodriguez will now face Naoya Inoue, called by many the tournament favorite, in the semifinals. Inoue advanced to the top four on October 7 when he retained his WBA “regular” bantamweight title with a 70-second knockout win over Juan Carlos Payano. The semifinals will take sometime in early 2019.