Joshua Franco's body attack and work rate help him lift super flyweight title from Andrew Moloney

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Joshua Franco (L) lands a left hand to Andrew Moloney en route to lifting the WBA super flyweight title via a unanimous decision Tuesday in Las Vegas. Judges scored it 114-113 twice and 115-112. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

Joshua Franco’s size and strength proved to be too much for Andrew Moloney, delaying at least temporarily the Aussie’s plan to become the latest star on the Las Vegas Strip. Franco dropped Moloney in the 11th and came on down the stretch to win a unanimous decision and claim the WBA super flyweight title at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Judge Julie Lederman had it 115-112, the same score as Yahoo Sports, for Franco. Both Patricia Morse Jarman and Dave Moretti scored it 114-113 for the 24-year-old from San Antonio, who improved to 17-1-2. He became just the fifth world champion from San Antonio, one of the country’s great boxing cities.

Franco did it the hard way, getting inside and working on the body. He won the last five rounds on Moretti’s card and the last four on those of Lederman and Morse Jarman to get the victory.

“It’s a great feeling, but it still hasn’t hit me yet,” Franco said to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after the bout. “It’s so unreal. I can’t believe it: I’m a world champion. I worked so hard for this and I knew the hard work would pay off in the end.”

Moloney was active early, moving and working up and down. But he was using a lot of energy to do so and as Franco relentlessly stalked him, he began to slow down in the middle of the fight. Franco was hitting him repeatedly with debilitating body shots in the middle rounds.

According to CompuBox, Moloney had a 63-56 edge in body punches, but there is little doubt that Franco’s shots had the greater impact.

That was telling in an excellent high-volume fight. Moloney had the edge in total punches for most of the fight, as Franco smelled victory down the stretch, he picked it up. He wound up out-landing Moloney 231-191 overall.

It was a bitter pill for Moloney to swallow. He and his identical twin brother Jason signed with Top Rank earlier this year and came to Las Vegas with the intention of building themselves into stars.

Moloney didn’t hurt his cause much, as anyone who saw him Tuesday would undoubtedly want to see him again, but he didn’t have the extra push when he needed it most.

“It just wasn’t my night tonight,” said Moloney, who fell to 21-1. “This was not the best version of Andrew Moloney, but full credit to Joshua Franco. He deserved to win the title with his effort. He closed the fight strong, like a true champion. I’ll be back. One loss won’t define me.”

The one victory, though, will define Franco, who went 1-0-2 in three brutally close fights with Oscar Negrete.

“After the fourth round, I gained the momentum and figured him out,” Franco said. “I always knew this was possible.”

Jason Moloney will headline Thursday’s Top Rank card on ESPN at the MGM Grand when he meets Leonardo Baez in a non-title bantamweight fight.

Joshua Franco embraces trainer Robert Garcia after defeating Andrew Moloney Tuesday in Las Vegas to win the WBA super flyweight world title. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

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