SAN ANTONIO – At the beginning of the month, Joshua Franco said to KSAT 12 Sports he was not leaving the ring without the world title.
While many boxers promise a lot, Franco kept his promise and delivered.
On Tuesday night at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Franco entered the ring as the underdog against an undefeated fighter from Australia.
The only live sport of the night in the United States did not disappoint.
Joshua was facing Andrew Moloney, an undefeated super flyweight with 21 career wins and 14 knockouts entering the night. He was the talk of the entire ESPN broadcast, heavily favored it seemed against San Antonio’s Franco.
Moloney had all the hype and promotion going into this title defense.
Too bad for Moloney he was facing a fighter who has never looked better in his career.
The 12-round bout for Moloney’s WBA World Super Flyweight championship belt had the typical start for Franco. “El Profesor” takes his time getting into fights and Tuesday was no different. Franco (17-1-2, 8 KO’s) is a fighter that has been conditioned to last until the very last round; that’s what happens when more than half your fights have gone the distance.
Moloney, who suffers his first career defeat, came out swinging, landing a lot more punches than Franco but those punches didn’t have a lot of power behind them. Moloney stayed active, constantly throwing but Franco stayed patient and waited for his moment to strike.
That moment became moments in the second half of the fight. Franco’s trainer, the legendary Robert Garcia, told him going into the seventh round: “six more rounds and you’re a world champ.”
While Moloney landed a lot more body shots in the first half of the bout, Franco landed stronger punches to Moloney’s head in the second half. Franco landed a great left uppercut in the second round. He followed that with a nice uppercut and hook in the eighth.
In the tenth round, Franco maintained his attack, cutting Moloney over the left eye with a right and later forced Moloney to slip, though it was not ruled a knockdown. Franco pounded his chest as he returned to the corner while Moloney walked away, his face covered in blood.
The defining moment came in the next round.
With 2:29 left in the eleventh round, Franco finished off a combination of well placed hits, finishing with a left right down the middle, his best punch of the night, that snapped Moloney’s head back. Franco landed three more punches before Moloney’s gloves touched the canvas, becoming the only knockdown of the night.
Franco did more of the same in the final round, finishing the night strong while Moloney looked exhausted.
That 10-8 round by Franco in the 11th made a huge difference in the end.
Franco won by unanimous decision, winning on the scorecards 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113, becoming the second world boxing champion to come from San Antonio in the last year since Mario Barrios won his world title back in late September.
San Antonio’s very own Joshua Franco is a World Champion beating Andrew Moloney by unanimous decision to win the WBA Jr. Bantamweight title! @JoshuaFranco_ @InstantReplaySA #boxing pic.twitter.com/bmDFwGJWgR— Larry Ramirez (@LRam2) June 24, 2020
According to CompuBox, both fighters landed 29% of their punches. Franco landed 231 of his 789 thrown while Moloney landed 191 of his 663. Moloney landed a majority of his body shots in the early part of the fight but landed only 10 body shots in the last four rounds. Franco turned up the heat late, out-landing Moloney 82-36 in rounds 9, 10 and 11.
“It was crucial, I needed that knockdown,” said Franco after the fight on ESPN. “It’s a great feeling, it still hasn’t hit me yet. I can’t believe it, I’m world champ, I worked so hard for this, I knew the hard work would pay off in the end.”
Tremendous congrats to San Antonio’s own new world champ @JoshuaFranco_ 🍾🍾🍾🥊☝🏾🇲🇽🇲🇽— Kendo Castaneda (@KendoTremendo) June 24, 2020
If you have followed Team Franco over the years, you can’t help but think how that trilogy against Oscar Negrete really helped shape Franco. Those three fights went the distance in 2018 and 2019, ending with 5,686 punches thrown in 30 rounds of boxing, with Franco coming out on top with one victory, two draws and the WBA International Bantamweight title and NABF Bantamweight title.
Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 17 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email email@example.com