Twins Andrew and Jason Moloney were supposed to be in the United States last month preparing for two of the biggest fights of their respective careers, but now they stand alone at a gym deep in the heart of Australia, taking turns hitting the pads, slowly improving as the coronavirus pandemic still looms large.
This wasn't how they envisioned the month of April going. It was supposed to be a potentially career-changing month for the two, who sit in the upper echelon of boxers in their respective weight classes. Now, they aren't sure when they're fighting again.
Andrew, the current WBA "Regular" super flyweight champion, was supposed to have his first title defense (as well as his U.S. pro debut) against Israel Gonzalez while Jason, a top contender in the bantamweight division. was set to fight Joshua Greer Jr. in the co-main event of a Top Rank card in Las Vegas that supposed to also feature pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue. They've been training for these fights since the start of the year, eagerly awaiting to show Top Rank, ESPN and the American boxing landscape that they are ready to take over.
“It was heartbreaking [hearing their fights were canceled]. We’ve had some good sparring and we were only days away, maybe two days before we were flying out to the U.S. until we got the call that said all the fights are canceled. It was devastating," Andrew tells Fightful, joined by Jason on a nice spring day in Australia.
Everything was set for their odyssey to the United States. They planned to stay there for roughly a month and even had AirBnB reservations so that they can have a place to stay during their time there.
"We’ve worked so hard for the past 16 years to get to this point to get these marquee fights and to make an impression in the U.S. and make a massive statement," Jason said.
Andrew was set to defend his version of the 115-pound title against Gonzalez in Oklahoma in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing card on an ESPN platform. While Andrew was getting ready to fight Gonzalez in his first defense of the title, a bigger fight loomed over the horizon should Andrew emerged victorious. Although he holds the WBA’s “Regular” title, four-division titlist and future Hall of Famer Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez holds the WBA “Super” title.
There was no guarantee that Andrew would have fought "Chocolatito" next, but his goal had always been to challenge whoever stood atop the WBA in the super flyweight division. That was originally Kal Yafai, whom Andrew wanted to fight for years, but that all changed in February when "Chocolatito" a ninth-round TKO win over Yafai in Texas to become the new champion. Now, Andrew has his sights are now on a potential legacy-defining bout against "Chocolatito" if he doesn't fight Israel next.
“Firstly, the whole reason I wanted to fight Kal was because he held the title. I had been working my way up the WBA rankings and I was so confident I could beat him. After watching the ‘Chocolatito’ fight, I’m even more confident that I would have done the same thing. So, I’m disappointed that fight never happened, but now I have the chance to potentially fight ‘Chocolatito’ who is a legend in the lighter divisions and a legend in the sport. Most people think he’s the best fighter of the last decade. That’s a dream come true for me to fight him. To become a legend, you have to beat a legend and this would be an unbelievable opportunity for me to fight him. That definitely excites me and one that I am confident in winning. I think everyone agrees that ‘Chocolatito’ is heading towards the end of his career and I’m getting better every day so there’s no reason to think I can’t win that fight,” Andrew said.
Jason, on the other hand, had been on his own road to redemption. Unlike his unbeaten brother, Jason suffered his first, and only, pro defeat back in November 2018 when lost to then-IBF bantamweight world champion Emmanuel Rodriguez by split decision in the first round of the World Boxing Super Series. Even in defeat, many became aware of Moloney through his performance against an unbeaten champion. With his stock seemingly going up in the eyes of many in the boxing community, Jason still believes he has grown a lot as a fighter going through that experience fighting Rodriguez.
“I feel like I’m a completely different fighter than the one that fought Rodriguez. It was a very close fight, a split decision. Watching it back, I think it’s a fight that could have gone any way. It just made me even hungrier to win that world title. Even though I didn’t win the fight, I got a lot more belief in myself that I belong at the top of the division," Jason said.
After three straight wins, Jason is back in a great position being ranked by all four major governing bodies (the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF has Jason ranked in the top four at bantamweight in their respective rankings). His fight against Greer would have likely produced a future opponent against the winner of Inoue's three-belt unification against John Riel Casimero in Las Vegas.
Most of the titles at bantamweight are tied up with only a couple of fights. A win against Greer didn't bring any guarantees as far as world title bouts are concerned, but a loss would have likely set Jason back even more than when he lost to Rodriguez.
Beating Greer would mean a potential fight against Inoue, who is promoted by Top Rank like the Moloneys. Inoue presents a challenge far beyond anything Jason has previously faced. He faced Rodriguez when he was champion and went the distance while Inoue decimated Rodriguez, demolishing him in just two rounds months after that Jason's loss. Knowing that, Jason still believes he can become a champion.
“My goal this year was to become world champion. I want to fight for a belt as soon as possible. The situation before all this was that all the belts were tied up. Inoue was fighting Casimero and the WBC title was also tied because [Nonito] Donaire was named the mandatory to fight [Nordine] Oubaali. I knew that Joshua Greer was in the same situation as me, on the cusp of a world title shot. The best available fight for me was Greer. It was a fight we asked for and it’s a fight I’m comfortable in winning. The winner of me vs. Greer definitely deserves a title shot. I just want the opportunity to become a world champion,” Jason said.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the sport and shut it down for more than a month, any talk of title fights, or any future fights for that matter, would be dealing into uncertainty and speculation.
However, it isn't all bad for the Moloneys. They quickly learned that opportunities to spend extended time back home and with their family, even during a pandemic, don't come too often for top boxers looking to make their names overseas.
Andrew's son, who is still a toddler, learned his first words weeks ago. It was "Dad, dad" and Andrew was able to be there for his son during a special moment. If it wasn't for his fight being canceled, Andrew would not have been there to witness. However, even during their time off, they still conduct themselves as if it's still business as usual.
“I'm thankful we can spend time with our families," Andrew said.
"I know a lot of boxers all over the world are taking this as a bit of a holiday, but we’re doing the opposite," Jason said.
They have a gym nearby where they can train and work without having to be surrounded by others. They've had sparring partners from outside the country make the trip to Australia to help spar with them before the pandemic hit, which was a big help especially when their usual training partners can't go to the Moloneys.
"The two Moloneys have training partners, one is Billel Dib and the other is Bruno Tarimo, both world-rated fighters. They live in the border of New South Wales and Queensland in Australia and the Moloneys can’t train with the other guys because the borders were blocked. So they can’t come over to our state even though it’s like a 10-minute drive," Their manager Tony Tolj said when he spoke to Fightful.
Andrew and Jason don't restrict their training to just doing gym work. In their time off, the two brothers do take a look at boxing footage, both old and new. Andrew likes watching tape of the top fighters in his division, scouting them out and studying them, while Jason has been looking at fights from decades ago, like Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward or Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns as well as past Roy Jones Jr. bouts. Jason believes watching fights from past greats can inspire him to try out something new and add to his arsenal.
“We’re lucky we got our own private gym. There’s no one else training in the gym except Andrew and I. We’re using this time to really improve. When you’re training for a fight, I believe that’s not where you make your improvements. That’s where you’re getting fit and doing the sparring, basically getting in the best condition. Now, it’s not about staying fit. It’s about improving and working on the small things and mistakes you’ve been doing in the past. We could spend weeks working on that one punch until we make a huge improvement on that punch and then in the next week, we would work on something else. Over the last month or so, I feel like we’ve made massive improvements," Andrew said.
No one knows when the Moloneys will make their long-awaited U.S. debut as part of the Top Rank even as the promotion is looking to stage events behind closed doors in the coming months. But with travel bans and restrictions in place, there's no telling when they will be able to fly out of Australia and fight in the United States.
The two brothers spent more than a dozen years fighting to earn the opportunities they are now getting. Andrew spent nearly two years waiting on Yafai to fight him when Yafai held the WBA title. That fight never happened. Jason had been working his way back to a title shot for more than a year after his split decision loss to Rodriguez back in 2018 for the IBF title.
Waiting is something they're used to. They're not afraid to wait some more if need be. They believe they will be ready when the time comes for them to step up.
"We’re unsure of when we’re fighting again, but we gotta stay positive and get through this. We’re making the most of it so that once we get the green light, we’ll be ready... The hardest part is not knowing when this is going to be over," Jason said.
"But when the fights resume, we’re going to have a head start on everyone else,” Andrew said.
You can check out the full interview between Andrew & Jason with Fightful in the video at the top of the page.