Champion Jason Moloney keen to show Saul Sanchez there are levels at the top

Jason Moloney makes the first defense of his WBO bantamweight world title next weekend against Saul Sanchez in the unlikely destination of Quebec, Canada.

The 32-year-old collides with California’s Sanchez on the undercard of Artur Beterbiev Vs Callum Smith, eight months removed from a maiden world title victory against the previously-undefeated Vincent Astrolabio. 

Moloney (26-2, 19 KOs) had dreamed of an Australian homecoming against Filipino legend Nonito Donaire for his first title defense. However, Alexandro Santiago upset the applecart by claiming the vacant WBC title against Donaire in July in Las Vegas. Santiago now clashes with two weight world champion Junto Nakatani next month in Tokyo. 

“I’ve been in camp for quite a while now to be honest,” Moloney said, in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “It is good to be here in Vegas, I’m just putting the final touches on what has already been a great camp. I’m ready to go and ready to put on a great performance and make the first defense of my world title to set myself up for a massive 2024. I want to be very active in 2024 and cement myself as the No. 1 in the division and start to make some noise. 

“Sanchez is in good form, he is coming off a couple of good wins, one in Japan against an undefeated opponent. I’m preparing for and expecting a very hard fight, but I just feel like I am the best in the division. Obviously everyone I fight is coming for what I have now, so I need to stay at the top of my game. I’ve watched Sanchez a fair bit over the years, I see him as a solid fighter, he is strong and a decent puncher, but I don’t think he is on my level. The two losses he has on his record are against guys not on my level. If I’m at my best, which I plan to be, I’ll beat Sanchez and move onto bigger and better things. Obviously I’m not looking past him and working really hard to make this an impressive victory. He’s quite similar to Astrolabio, so I’ve had good preparation for his style. I think his style will suit me quite well. I think you will see my class against this sort of fighter.”

Moloney has left his family in his native Australia during the festive period to train in Las Vegas ahead of his duel with Sanchez, despite not clinching a unification. 

“I had a very quiet Christmas,” Moloney explained. “I was away from my family, which hurt. It is always hard making those sacrifices especially with me having two young daughters, Christmas is a pretty special time of year. I always look forward to the festive thing, there are not too many fights around that time. Normally it is a chance to step away from boxing and spend some time with the family. But, the way it played out was that I only had one fight last year with the title victory, and then with the hand injury I was sidelined for a little bit. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a fight before the end of the year, so when Top Rank offered January 13, we jumped at it straight away. 

“It does involve some sacrifices over Christmas but I am happy to have the fight locked in. I’m looking to get a good win to set up some big fights later in the year, unifications. It was quite hard to get sparring partners though, luckily we got two good guys here, Arthur Villanueva and Francisco Pedroza, a former opponent of mine from Mexico. I’ve obviously got my manager Tony Tolj with me, and my coach Angelo Hyder. I’m very grateful to all of them for sacrificing their Christmas, too.”

The bantamweight world titles lay spread across the map, but the division will take shape before Spring. Takuma Inoue defends his WBA title against Jerwin Ancajas on the same bill as Santiago-Nakatani on February 24. IBF champion and former foe Emmanuel Rodriguez sensationally retired after defeating Melving Lopez in August. 

“I don’t know what Rodriguez is doing, mate, I don’t know if he knows.” Moloney added. “Yeah, he announced his retirement! It was a bit of a shock to me, obviously that is definitely a fight I want. I’m glad he changed his mind and he is back. I think he will fight his mandatory from Japan next. The division is sort of taking shape, but there is still a lot of speculation as to who is the best in the division. That’s why I need to put in a great performance to put my name at the forefront of the bantamweight division. I’m ranked No. 1 by The Ring, I need to hold on to that and eventually get that belt. 

“It is a great division, there are a lot of exciting fights. I’ve got a lot of history with the guys there too. I need revenge against Rodriguez, and there is also history there with Inoue in the way I fought his brother, and obviously there history with Nakatani as well given that he just beat Andrew. There are some fights I’m very keen to be amongst.”