DAZN’s World Boxing Super Series doubleheader set to dazzle
In the last month the DAZN app has presented boxing fans with a plethora of fights from around the globe (England, Japan, Russia and USA); some were drab, despite appearing good on paper while the majority delivered solid action. DAZN began with Anthony Joshua defending his world heavyweight titles and continues this weekend with two events in America. My colleague Tamas Pradarics reported on the Demetrius Andrade-Walter Kautondokwa showdown in Boston and I will fill in the blanks on DAZN’s other big event tonight at Orlando, Florida’s CFE Arena. Pradarics drew the fight with a more compelling storyline but, in terms of competitiveness, the Emmanuel Rodriguez, 18-0 (12) vs. Jason Moloney, 17-0 (14), and Yunier Dorticos, 22-1 (21) vs. Mateusz Masternak, 41-4 (28), pairings offer superior match-ups. Making the show even more interesting is they are part of the World Boxing Super Series, with the winner of the Rodriguez – Moloney fights receiving a shot at current pound-for-pound great and WBA “regular” bantamweight titlist Naoya “Monster” Inoue.
The IBF world bantamweight title is also on the line when Puerto Rican puncher Emmanuel Rodriguez and Australian challenger Jason Moloney meet at center ring. Rodriguez looks a quality titleholder – this will be his first defense – who showed maturity and punching power winning the belt by dominating once-beaten Paul Butler in England. Rodriguez quickly silenced the home crowd with two first round knockdowns (courtesy of his favorite left hook) before settling in for a comfortable unanimous decision victory. In the process Rodriguez showed off and combined the power, finesse, stamina and maturity boxing insiders had projected for him since turning pro six years ago.
As easy as Rodriguez makes things look in the ring, it has not been a smooth or straight shot to the top. He was the favorite to win Olympic gold by many but, in 2010, his amateur dreams (171-11 in the unpaid ranks) were dashed in a car accident that saw him badly injured, “I suffered second degree burns on 66 percent of my body. My life was in danger and my boxing career too but that was more motivation. My hands were so burnt that I could not move them, as I prefer to, but now I’m 100 percent.”
Rodriguez has scored scintillating wins with his imposing 5-foot-6 frame, which he uses to the fullest extent, given his boxing pedigree. Compelling is, as his level of opposition increased, that Rodriguez has stopped seven of his last 10 opponents, showing raised concentration, risk-taking and ambition. Perhaps unusually he has been doing this by countering opponents’ mistakes, instead of leading, using quick hands that unfurl like a striking snake. A confident Rodriguez arrived in Orlando on Tuesday, after a 10-week training camp, stating he was only three pounds off weight, emboldened by Puerto Rican fans who welcomed him at the airport and whom are sure to make up the majority of the crowd on fight night.
Jason Moloney has boxed outside of the spotlight down in Australia but has not gone unnoticed as he is ranked No. 7 by The Ring Magazine and is rated in all reputable bantamweight Top 10s. An accomplished amateur (defeated Irish star Michael Conlan and fought for Australia’s national selection, including in America), Moloney is a better pro, given his advancing style, which places a lot of value on consistent, in-your-face pressure. The 27-year-old challenger is in his physical prime, sparring with WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and Nonito Donaire last year and promises he is up for the challenge mentally, “Training has been fantastic. My team and I are very happy with how things are coming together. I’m not just in this tournament to make up the numbers; we truly believe that we have what it takes to go all the way.”
It is a difficult task Moloney has been handed, considering Rodriguez’s advantages in top-rung experience at both the pro and amateur levels. The Aussie took every precaution, even taking a hit on his travel budget, arriving in America three weeks early to ensure he would be acclimated to the time change, “I really feel like this is my time to shine. I have been training so hard to achieve my dream of becoming world champion and I will not let this opportunity slip. I take great pride in being the first fighter to represent Australia in the World Boxing Super Series and I am 110 percent ready to bring this world title back to Australia and advancing into the semifinals.”
Chief Boxing Officer for the WBSS, Kalle Sauerland, said Moloney is an intriguing component of the second season of the knockout tournament, “Moloney is yet another exciting addition to Season Two. He is one of the biggest prospects in Australian boxing and enters the world stage and (Muhammad) Ali Trophy action full of confidence. He is clearly a very determined power-punching fighter eager to impress.” That may all be true but it has done nothing to convince bookmakers who list Moloney as nearly a eight-to-one underdog.
As is the case with unbeaten boxers, their ambitions know little in terms of boundary. Emmanuel Rodriguez told Anson Wainwright of The Ring Magazine, “I always wanted to face the best. So this is what I was waiting for before being a world champion. The best are in this tournament. More fans will get to know me and the other participants, which is great.” Moloney, for his part, spoke for every boxer on the card at the final press conference, “I’m really looking forward to showing the U.S. and the worldwide audience exactly what I am capable of and putting on a spectacular performance.”
In the co-main event, Cuban knockout artist Yunier Dorticos returns from a thrilling loss, in an IBF and WBA cruiserweight title unification fight to Murat Gassiev, facing veteran Polish puncher Mateusz Masternak. The Gassiev fight was even on the cards going into the final round, when both men emptied their guns and gas tanks, with Dorticos unfortunate to lose via 12th round TKO in Russia. Most everyone who saw the fight counts themselves a fan of both boxers now and it is good to see Dorticos back after a well-advised recuperation period of eight months.
Dorticos believes he will make good at his second shot at a WBSS championship (the winner of this fight faces American Andrew Tabiti in the semi-finals) and, given his truly elite punching power, it is hard to argue against him. Dorticos’ trainer Eric Castanos told BoxingScene.com’s Elisinio Castillo about the challenge that stands before them, “(Masternak) is a very strong Pole, who comes to work, who uses a discreet jab, but he emphasizes a lot on the right. We are working to neutralize him. Dorticos is coming in with a lot of things, with a good tactic and we will win.”
I tipped Masternak as a future champ back in 2013, when I first saw the powerfully built and evenly proportioned, at 6-foot, prospect, as he was progressing through a string of quality opponents. Now 31, Masternak has not won a world title but every loss (bar one against future champ Grigory Drozd) were by narrow margins and ambiguous, given hometown advantages in two cases. This tourney likely presents Masternak’s last chance at a title. Given his skill set, few titleholders will want to face him if not put in a mandatory position. Both Dorticos and Masternak enter the fight with a mixture of ambition and desperation, a great combination that usually pays off in excellent fights for fans.
The two WBSS bouts, as expected, given the quality of last year’s tourney, pit dangerous and motivated fighters against each other with a clearly established goal. Not only the one-of-a-kind Muhammad Ali Trophy is there for the taking but the boxers are rewarded with escalated reputations, valuable rise in worldwide exposure and dramatically increased paychecks after each victory. It’s worth fighting for!