Joshua Franco captured the WBA regular junior bantamweight title by defeating previously undefeated Australian champion Andrew Moloney in a hard-fought unanimous decision Tuesday night at the fan-free MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

The judges had the scores at 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113 for Franco.

What was a closely fought battle early became a fight that Franco took over late with steady pressure and a consistent midrange attack. While Moloney (21-1, 14 KOs) banked early rounds and made an early commitment to the body with his left hook, Franco never bowed to the pressure. In fact, he seemed to get stronger and stronger as the night continued.

“I knew that I dominated after the fourth round,” Franco said. “I knew the fight was in my hands.”

Moloney, a sharp boxer-puncher, certainly had good moments early, but as the fight progressed, Franco steadily marched forward and began to break down his opponent.

“I didn’t feel his power, at all,” Franco said. “I felt like little by little I was breaking him down. I could hear him making little noises after I would hit him. So I knew little by little I would get to him.”

According to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, Maloney was sent to the hospital after the fight for precautionary reasons.

Many of the rounds were close, but Franco’s punches were more impactful. Moloney worked in spurts as he circled the ring, but Franco never allowed the defending champion to really dominate the action.

A booming overhand right in the 10th round cut Moloney near his left eye, and his face began to visibly bruise. In Round 11, Franco scored a knockdown from an accumulation of punches, which proved pivotal in the scoring. Franco outlanded Moloney 231 to 191.

“It was real crucial. I needed that knockdown,” Franco said. “Robert [Garcia] kept me in the zone. He’s been a world champion, he’s [trained] many world champions and he knows the words to say. He kept me motivated; he kept me focused. I didn’t lose focus the whole fight, and you know, it paid off.

“Such a great feeling. It still hasn’t hit me yet. It’s just so real. I can’t believe it — I’m world champion and I worked so hard for this. I knew the hard work would pay off in the end.”

For the game Moloney, who was making his stateside debut, it was a disappointing outcome.

“It just wasn’t my night tonight,” he said. “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.”

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