LAS VEGAS – Saturday night in Las Vegas was nothing boxing fans were expecting to see.
After waiting a half-hour for a college football blowout to wrap on ESPN, fans had to wait almost another 30 minutes for the conclusion of a fight that stopped after two rounds.
San Antonio’s Joshua Franco was defending his WBA World Super Flyweight title against Australia’s Andrew Moloney, the man Franco took the belt from in June. Moloney was the heavy favorite in the first showdown. Saturday, the tables had turned for Franco.
Inside the ring at the MGM Grand Conference Center, where 100 guests were in attendance for the first time since boxing’s restart in the summer, fans saw a determined Moloney, who promised a faster and stronger start compared to the first showdown.
Moloney kept his promise. Moloney landed 25 total punches in the first round including 13 jabs compared to Franco’s 11 total punches landed.
It was one of those jabs that became the center of a controversy Saturday night. Or perhaps it was an accidental head-butt, depending how you saw the fight unfold.
Moloney landed a clean left jab to Franco’s right eye in the first round. There were numerous times the two fighters had to be separated in the opening round and during the close contact, that is when there was a clash of heads and a accidental head-butt according to the referees inside and outside the ring.
Franco’s right eye immediately began to swell badly. The ringside doctor examined Franco but was given the green light to continue fighting in the second round. Despite the heroic effort, Franco was clearly troubled by that right eye, unable to land timely punches and having to protect his eye from another punch.
At the end of the second round, Franco’s right eye was completely swollen shut. The ringside doctor examined Franco again and that is when the fight was stopped, ending in a no-contest.
But the drama did not end there. Moloney was celebrating thinking he had won the title back, believing he won by technical knockout. That’s when the reviews began with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Multiple reviews aired showing what members of the broadcast believed to be the left jab by Moloney to cause the swelling of Franco’s right eye. After almost a half-hour of review, it was announced that the swelling was due to a accidental head-butt and Franco retained his championship belt.
“He did not touch me, that eye was closed by 50 jabs, I seen it," said Moloney after the announcement. "I hit him with a jab early in the first round and I seen a little lump and I went straight after it. I hit it another 50 times that’s why his eye’s shut. Not the head-butt, there’s no head-butt. I can’t believe they took this away from me.”
Nevada commission executive director Bob Bennett and Top Rank's Bob Arum just got into it ringside at MGM. Bennett started yelling at Arum as they were talking privately, and the two were quickly separated.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) November 15, 2020
As both boxers teams exited the ring, Moloney appeared to be in a yelling match with members of Franco’s team prior to Moloney’s ESPN interview.
“I don’t know how he can carry that belt around and call himself a champion, I’m the champion,” concluded Moloney.
Should these two fight for a third time, it would be a rare trilogy but nothing new for Franco. He fought Oscar Negrete three times in two years with Franco coming out ahead with one win and two draws.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org