• Kyodo, AFP-Jiji

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Naoya Inoue defended his IBF and WBA bantamweight world titles by knocking out Australian challenger Jason Moloney in the seventh round of their fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

The three-weight world champion remains undefeated after dropping Moloney once with a left hook in the sixth round and sending him down for the count with a devastating right punch in the final moments of the seventh.

The 27-year-old Inoue landed a vicious straight right that buckled Moloney’s knees and the Australian was unable to beat the count with just one second left in the round. Inoue had dispatches his four prior foes in less than three rounds.

“The final punch, I’m very happy and satisfied with that punch,” said Inoue. “Moloney has great defense it was difficult to get through.”

Inoue scored two knockdowns and improved to a perfect 20-0 with 17 knockouts while Moloney dropped to 21-2 with 18 KOs.

A combination of deadly speed and raw power factored into Inoue’s dominant performance in his highly-anticipated Vegas debut at the MGM Grand Conference Center. The fight was held behind closed doors to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I was satisfied with my form in the end. I had been practicing that (finishing) punch combo in Japan,” Inoue said. “I was focused so it ended up being fine without any spectators.”

The 27-year-old, who came into his third bout held outside of Japan with the aim of starting the second chapter of his career, said his next mission is to add the WBC and WBO bantamweight titles to his collection.

Acknowledged as one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and known as “The Monster,” Inoue’s 15th straight victory surpassed International Boxing Hall of Famer Yoko Gushiken for the longest streak by a Japanese fighter.

Moloney, who was seeking to capture his first world title, suffered his second loss and fell to 21-2.

Inoue, a former WBC light flyweight and WBO super flyweight champion, had been scheduled to face WBO bantamweight title holder John Riel Casimero on April 25 in Las Vegas before the fight fell through after being postponed over the coronavirus pandemic.

The roughly one-year break between fights gave Inoue plenty of time to recover from a pair of fractures around his right eye dealt by Filipino Nonito Donaire in a merciless World Boxing Super Series bantamweight final in November 2019.

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