On another weekend loaded with Top Rank Boxing cards televised on ESPN, one championship performance stood out above all others. On Tuesday night at the Bubble in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, “The Professor” Joshua Franco walked into the ring a prohibitive underdog, put in the best performance of his young career, swept the final four rounds of his first world title fight, knocked the champ to the canvas in the 11th round and nearly stopped him, on his way to securing the upset victory in a scrap that is likely the leader in the clubhouse for Fight of the Year. The 24-year-old Franco captured the “Regular” WBA Super Flyweight title and joined his buddy and fellow San Antonian Mario Barrios as world champions from The Alamo City The professor also secured our Fighter of the Week award.
Hardcore boxing fans have gotten used to both Moloney’s and Franco’s high work rate and fan-friendly styles. So when the two finally stepped into the ring in was all too obvious we were going to get an all-out offensive scrap, and the two assuredly delivered on that. Moloney outworked Franco in the early going and was perhaps putting rounds the early rounds in the bank behind his punch volume and bodywork. Franco started off a bit cautiously but started to figure things out in the fourth and fifth round as he had more success cutting off the ring and applying pressure, landing thudding hooks on the inside that seemed to stop Moloney in his tracks. By round six the momentum had shifted and though probably still down on the cards Franco seized control, as the heavier handed fighter stalked forward and walked through the Australians shots. Franco’s one hook at a time become combinations that slowed the champ down and by the 11th round with the fight up in the air on the cards. Franco seized the moment landing a ferocious right-left-left-right combo that dropped Moloney just 35 seconds into the round. The Texan stayed on the attack and swarmed the wounded champion for the remainder of the round. The final round started were the eleventh ended, the challenger dominated the final three minutes and poured in picture-perfect right hands and hooks and left Moloney a bloody mess as the bell sounded to end the final round. Going to the cards it was clear Franco had done enough to take the belt from the champ and the judges agreed unanimously 114-113 twice, and 115-112.
At just 24, Franco is extremely experienced having gone through an all-action trilogy with Oscar Negrete, in which the two ends of that trilogy ended in a draw while Franco was able to eek a very close split decision victory in the middle bout. Franco who is promoted by Golden Boy and traditionally fights on DAZN will have a litany of good options moving forward in a very talent loaded 115-pound division. Moloney has expressed interest in a rematch and who wouldn’t want to see that? However, Franco has his eyes set on a bigger prize. He has called out the legendary four-division world champ Ramon “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Such a fight could be a passing of the torch from one big-hitting little man to the next. If neither of those fights can be secured there are other attractive fights that can be made. Both Kal Yafai and Juan Francisco Estrada would be highly entertaining scraps and would likely be career-high purses for the young champ.