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Jason Moloney vs. Yoshiki Takei: Mouth-watering unification matchups loom as Australian rides Japanese wave

No matter which direction Jason Moloney looks, there are big fights and box office storylines.

The Australian WBO bantamweight world champion will look to make the second defence of his title when he takes on the undefeated Yoshiki Takei at the sold-out 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome on Monday.

Headlined by pound-for-pound superstar Naoya Inoue’s clash with Luis Nery, the card is being billed as the biggest event in Japanese boxing history.

Such is the magnitude of the show and the stardom of Inoue, other boxers in the lighter weight classes are experiencing a level of attention they haven’t seen.

“I just got to Tokyo and walked around to grab some food from the supermarket and got stopped a bunch of times by different people on the street for photos and autographs,” Moloney told The Sporting News.

“There was a crowd of people with cameras and photos and recorders wanting to interview me at the airport, which is something I’ve never experienced before.”

Moloney puts his popularity among the locals down to his valiant effort en route to a seventh-round stoppage courtesy of Inoue back in 2020.

“I think they just appreciated my fighting spirit, my effort and my will to win against Inoue when other guys have got in there and crumbled or just gone into survival mode,” he said.

“They could see that I was determined to try and win the fight and had some moments. 

“These guys are true boxing fans, they love the sport and they’re very well educated fans too and I think they appreciated what they saw, which was great, but I know I’m a much better fighter than what I showed in that fight.”

With a win against Takei on Monday, the 33-year-old Australian is looking to set up a blockbuster unification bout later this year, giving him the chance to prove he’s now the top dog at the weight.

“All four bantamweight world champions are currently in Tokyo,” Moloney said.

“We’ve all fought around the same timeframe so let’s hope we can make the unifications happen after I get past Takei. 

“There’s some huge fights and with what’s going on here with Japanese boxing at the moment and the big fights that they’re putting on, it’s super exciting to be a part of it all.”

Should Moloney defeat Takei, he’ll have no shortage of inspiration if he can secure a date with either of the three other titleholders in the division.

Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya, holds the WBA strap and fights Sho Ishida on Monday, putting himself on a potential collision course with Moloney.

The only stoppage defeat on Moloney’s 27-2 record, came against “The Monster” in his bantamweight days and he’d relish the chance to square the ledger against the Inoues.

Similarly, Moloney would only have to look at his twin brother Andrew’s brutal stoppage at the hands of Junto Nakatani for motivation if a meeting with the WBC champ were to materialise.

Coming just a week after Moloney outclassed Vincent Astrolabio to claim the vacant belt last May, Andrew was on the receiving end of the Knockout of the Year in the final round of his WBO super flyweight world title bout with the classy southpaw.

“It would mean the world to me and the family to get that one back,” he said.

“Obviously it was a devastating defeat, watching my brother lose to Nakatani in that fight. 

“To get one back for him would be a very special moment and for me to achieve my dream of being a unified world champion and have another belt over my shoulder would make that even sweeter.”

And when it comes to IBF champion Manny Rodriguez, who puts his strap on the line against Ryosuke Nishida in Osaka on Saturday, memories of Moloney’s 2018 split-decision world-title loss to the Puerto Rican won’t be far from his mind.

“That’s the top of the wishlist for me,” Moloney said when asked about a Rodriguez rematch earlier this year.

“If I could choose the next fight, that’s the one.”

Moloney Rodriguez

As for which one appeals most, “Mayhem” isn’t too picky.

“Each of those fights, there’s some history and a lot of meaning there and obviously for me, having the opportunity to fight in the unification is a huge step forward in my career and the big fights that I want to be a part of,” he said. 

“There’s not really a preference, I just want to go out there and make a good statement and win this fight and then whichever one comes first, I’m all for it.

“They’re all fights that are going to be very possible to put together as long as I win this fight against Takei.”

Moloney is right to not look past his current opponent.

The Victorian is now Australia’s only male world champion following Tim Tszyu’s upset defeat to Sebastian Fundora, another reminder of the unpredictable nature of the sport.

A former standout kickboxer, Takei has made the switch to boxing a successful one to date.

“He’s only had  eight professional boxing fights but he’s won them all and he’s knocked them all out and that’s all you can do,” Moloney said. 

“We don’t really know exactly how good this guy is at the moment, this is obviously a big jump up in level for him.

“I’ve prepared for this guy like it’s the hardest fight of my life and I think it will be a tricky fight. 

“That’s why I’ve really dedicated myself and applied myself in this training camp and invested heavily in bringing over three very good sparring partners from Japan to help me get ready for this guy.

“I can see that he’s explosive, he’s got good power, he throws some pretty unorthodox, wild punches, jumping in from long range and things like that. 

“He’s the sort of guy that you can’t lose focus on. I’ve seen this before and I won’t get caught up in the moment. 

“As long as I’m focused and at my best, I believe my best will be good enough.”

With the Japanese boxing boom showing no sign of slowing down, a statement win on Monday could set Moloney well on his way to receiving the mainstream recognition he’s not yet been able to capture in his homeland.

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