Plans are in the works for Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue to defend his unified bantamweight world title against Jason Moloney on Oct. 31 in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card in Las Vegas, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told BoxingScene on Monday.
“We are working on that,” Arum said. “It would be ‘The Monster’ fighting Moloney on Halloween.”
The fight would take place inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where all of Top Rank’s cards have been taking place since it began to put fights on again during the coronavirus pandemic in June without spectators.
Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs), 27, who signed with Top Rank last November, was supposed to have his debut for the company (and his second fight in the United States) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on April 25 in an ESPN main event. He was scheduled to face John Riel Casimero in a three-belt title unification fight. However, the card was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moloney was supposed to fight Joshua Greer in the co-feature of the April 25 card.
While the 29-year-old Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs), of Australia, returned on June 25 inside the bubble and stopped Leonard Baez in the seventh round, Inoue has been out of action since winning a unanimous decision against Nonito Donaire in a thrilling title unification fight in the final of the eight-man World Boxing Super Series tournament on Nov. 7 in Saitama, Japan. The fight was selected 2019 fight of the year by several media outlets as well as the Boxing Writers Association of America.
While Moloney, who suffered his only loss by split decision to Emmanuel Rodriguez in a bantamweight world title fight in the World Boxing Super Series quarterfinals in October 2018 in Orlando, Florida, was able to travel from his home country of Australia to fight in June, Inoue had issues getting his visa because of a logjam of requests.
But Arum said the pound-for-pound ranked Inoue, who has won world titles at junior flyweight, junior bantamweight and bantamweight, has secured a visa and should soon be headed to the United States.
“The visa problem is OK now,” Arum said. “He has the visa and he had his interview and everything.”
Whether or not the fight will actually take place Oct. 31 will depend largely on Inoue’s Japanese broadcaster, Arum said.
“A lot of the revenue for his fights has to be paid by the Japanese television broadcaster, so we have to make sure Nov. 1 is a good date for Japanese television,” said Arum, noting it would be Oct. 31 in the U.S. and Nov. 1 in Japan due to the time difference between the two countries. “The fight with Moloney I think is actually a better fight in the ring that it would have been with Casimero.”
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti agreed.
“Inoue makes exciting, great fights and Jason Moloney makes exciting, great fights,” Moretti said. “If the two were ever to fight then you’d have an exciting fight, no question. Stylistically I think it’s great.”
The fight between Inoue and three-division titlist Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs), 31, of the Philippines, was not rescheduled because it was unclear when Inoue would be able to come to the U.S., so Casimero took another fight instead. He will make the first defense of the 118-pound belt he won by third-round knockout of Zolani Tete in November against Duke Micah (24-0, 19 KOs), 28, of Ghana. The fight will take place on Sept. 26 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, on the undercard of the Showtime PPV doubleheader featuring twin brothers Jermell Charlo in a middleweight title defense against Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jermell Charlo in a three-belt junior middleweight title unification fight with Jeison Rosario.
Casimero’s decision opened the door for Moloney to get another shot at a world title.
“Jason Moloney versus Inoue is a fight we are talking about and very interested in but it is not yet finalized,” Tony Tolj, Moloney’s manager, said. “We want that fight. We have enormous respect for a future Hall of Fame fighter in Naoya Inoue. We won’t run from ‘The Monster’ Inoue. To quote Ric Flair, “To be the man, you got to beat the man.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com’s senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.