Celebrations are overdue for Moloney ahead of his world title defense Saturday

Celebrations are overdue for Jason Moloney.

Over the Christmas holidays, the 33-year-old typically retreats from the sport of boxing to dedicate himself to his wife Jorja and his two young girls Isla and Billie. 

Last month, though, was different.

While his family unwrapped presents after Santa had visited, Moloney was in Las Vegas preparing for the maiden defense of his WBO bantamweight championship.

The Aussie boxer returns to the ring Saturday against Saul Sanchez before Artur Beterbiev headlines the Top Rank on ESPN+ card against Callum Smith.

But, when speaking to ProBox TV before he left Vegas for Quebec, he told us of the sacrifice.

"I've made so many sacrifices being away from my family, missing Christmas, but I'm hungry to get better and leave the gym every day feeling like a better fighter," he told us.

"They say when you become champion you get 20% better so on Saturday night maybe you'll see a 20% more improved [version of] Jason Moloney."

He continued: "Missing Christmas was hard, obviously I've made sacrifices before in my career, but being a dad to two young girls … Christmas is just a special time for me and my family.

"It's the one time of year generally when there's no fights," Moloney told us. "I'm a family man at Christmas, and give my family my full attention, but an opportunity came up to fight in January.

"We jumped at it as I want to have an active year, and it was hard only fighting once last year [against Vincent Astrolabio in May at the Stockton Arena in California]. To Kick off the year in January with a fight, defend for the first time, and fight 3-4 times in 2024 is huge.

"We made the sacrifice and it's hard as you only get so many Christmases with kids when the magic is there — my girls couldn't wait for Santa to come — to miss all that is hard. They're expecting presents, and gift bags, after I win this fight. I'll come home with a smile and give them all the love I can give them.

"But I do what I do to achieve absolutely everything I can in this sport. I'm 33, in my prime, and make the most of these prime years being involved in the biggest fights I can," he said.

Moloney won the WBO title at 118-pounds last summer with that majority decision win over Astrolabio but, as the result was a majority decision, it was one in which he barely celebrated.

"I was very happy with the win," Moloney told us, "But the 114-114 scorecard pissed me off, the crowd booing pissed me off, and my hand was hurting so we rushed off to hospital. I didn't really get to celebrate."

When Moloney got out of hospital he said the focus moved on to his brother, Andrew Moloney, who fought Junto Nakatani for the WBO super flyweight title the following week at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, losing by knockout in the final round.

This weekend's bout against Sanchez is one in which Moloney craves a thumping win — and a roaring celebration — before moving through other big names at the weight.

Moloney wants to unify the bantamweight division

Moloney has full confidence he'll defeat Sanchez on Saturday as he sees gaps in numerous departments from experience to skill level.

"I prepare for every fight like it's my hardest," he told ProBox TV.

He said it remains to be seen if Sanchez is his toughest opponent since losing to Naoya Inoue, but he believes he's Sanchez's toughest test yet.

"That's the big difference in this fight," he said. "I've been in the ring with the best, and beaten only once by Inoue."

Moloney, of course, has one other official loss on his record — a split decision defeat to Emmanuel Rodriguez in October, 2018. It is a result he disputes, and a wrong he hopes to right.

"I don't count [the loss to Rodriguez]," he said. "Those are two undefeated world champions. Meanwhile, Sanchez has got two losses against C-level fighters. He'll be hungry, but I'll be preparing for the hardest fight of his life. And I think he'll find out he's out of his depth and that his best isn't good enough."

Moloney elaborated: "I'm better than him in all areas. I'm in my peak, a world champion, and in great form with a great camp [behind me].

"I'm still so hungry, hungrier than when I won the belt. I've worked my whole my life for this belt. I think I've got him covered in all areas, though I pay respect to all fighters. He's aggressive, he can punch. I'm still preparing for the best Sanchez possible. I feel like I've got a target on my back [as world champion]."

After Sanchez, though, "the goal is to be undisputed" world champion, said Moloney.

It's easy to identify opponents for Moloney throughout 2024 because, as he'll tell you, there are people at bantamweight whom he has history with.

When it comes to Rodriguez, who holds the IBF title, a rematch could be an easy sell.

"We've exchanged a couple DMs and we both want to fight," Moloney told ProBox TV. "I've got this fight lined up [against Sanchez] but when I get past this I hope I can get revenge over Manny before he sneaks off and retires."

There's then Naoya's brother Takuma, who is the WBA champion in the division. "Definitely … there's interesting fights and guys I've got history with, as I've fought his brother. I'd love to fight in Japan as well. I'd jump at it," Moloney said.

That history extends, clearly, to Nakatani as Moloney wants to exact revenge for when Junto beat Andrew last year. "With Nakatani, there's history with my brother."

Somewhere in all this, is a hope that Moloney, alongside his manager Tony Tolj, can bring a big fight to Australia.

"I'd 100% take a title fight to Australia," he said. 

"We wanted the first defense to be in Australia but it just wasn't falling into place and I don't want to wait and wait. The next fight might be in Australia but, really, it's a case of anywhere, anytime. If we get an opportunity anywhere else in the world, we'll take it."

That's what they did with the opportunity this weekend.

It's one Moloney is eager to win as, between missing Christmas and not really toasting his world title success at the time, it feels overdue.

"I'm treating this as the world title that we can celebrate as a team."