Editor's note: This story was originally published ahead of Jason and Andrew Moloney's fights in June 2019. They both will fight on ESPN the week of June 23.
Jason Moloney is chuffed. He's just come off beating his twin brother, Andrew, in an intense game of table tennis.
Jason (18-1, 15 KOs) currently holds both the WBA Oceania and Commonwealth bantamweight titles. Andrew (19-0, 12 KOs) is the current WBA Oceania and Commonwealth junior bantamweight titleholder. He also won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the flyweight division.
Both are smiling assassins who uprooted from Melbourne to Kingscliff in their native Australia -- along with their respective partners -- for the chance to train with Angelo Hyder. Hyder, of course, was the long-time trainer for former light heavyweight titlist Danny Green; Green serves as a mentor to the Moloneys, who are both on the verge of boxing stardom.
Right now, the competitive juices are flowing, and both covet the self-made Moloney Table Tennis Championships.
"We love our table tennis now," Jason tells ESPN.
"Tell him the record!" goads Andrew. "Tell him the record!"
"I won this morning," Jason responds, matter-of-factly. "That's all we need to hear, mate."
Andrew isn't beaten that easily. "Jason won this morning for the third time out of about 400 [games]," he says.
"You're only as good as your last game," his brother counters with a final jab.
Amidst a cacophony of laughs and good-natured ribbing, the twins with seemingly permanent smiles etched across their almost identical visages project a refreshing countermovement to the murky machismo of the fight game.
For the Moloneys, old school grit 'n grind -- with a dash of authenticity -- replaces the often-manufactured bravado.
"They are beautiful people," says their manager, Tony Tolj. "And yes, it's a big rarity."
Tolj, who has previously managed legendary featherweight Chris John, is keen for Australia to "be part of the journey." He's been a part of the Australian boxing fraternity for decades and seen the rise and fall of pugilism in this country.
"In recent times, there have been a lot of people in Australian boxing that will put their fighters in positions where they get a good payday," he says. "But they're not in a position to actively compete with that next level."
What he sees right now with the Moloney twins is a pair of driven, dedicated individuals who care about their craft, with the talent and, most importantly, the character, to galvanise Australian boxing.
Andrew Moloney's list of conquests includes Rene Dacquel and Luis Concepcion, a former two-time world champion. In his most recent fight, Andrew destroyed Miguel Gonzales in Chile in a WBA title eliminator.
Jason Moloney has beaten the likes of former world titleholder Kohei Kono. In October last year, he lost a split decision to then-IBF world titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez. Rodriguez subsequently lost the IBF belt to Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue in May.
"Next time I get the opportunity," Jason says, "I won't let it slip."
The Moloney twins' rise in boxing almost happened by accident.
Growing up in Melbourne, their passion was Australian rules football, and they harbored dreams of playing in the Australian Football League and running along the turf at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Jason supported the Sydney Swans, whilst Andrew followed Carlton.
At 13 years of age, during the footy offseason, they sought a competitive edge. Having always had a passing interest in boxing, they decided that it offered the additional training that could give them a fitness advantage over their footy rivals.
"Every now and then at home, we'd put on a pair of gloves and punch each other up in the lounge room, Jason says."
They nagged their dad until he finally relented and took them down to the local boxing gym for a session. From there, they were hooked.
"We just loved it," Jason remembers. "Eventually, we ended up giving up footy and just said we want to concentrate on boxing and go all the way. Here we are, doing something we love and very close to achieving the dream of becoming a world champion."
So, who won those lounge room brawls?
"If you ask me, I'll say me," Andrew says. "If you ask him, he'll say him."
The banter may be tongue-in-cheek, but the competitive streak is real. Their special bond as twins is a given, yet the opportunity to share this journey together is not lost on the Moloneys.
"You do have a bit of a special relationship. We're very close. We spend nearly all day, every day together. But we also get on each other's nerves from time to time," Andrew says with a chuckle.
"You do have a bit of a special relationship. We're very close. We spend nearly all day, every day together. But we also get on each other's nerves from time to time." Andrew Moloney
"We've always had this competitiveness between each other," he adds. "We're very competitive people. We don't like losing. I think it's helped us excel pretty quickly in the sport because we've just pushed each other to get better and better. We also help each other out. I think that definitely gives us a bit of an edge over the rest of the competition because we've got each other to bounce off and push each other to new levels all the time."
Andrew Moloney hates losing at anything -- and he won't quit until he becomes the best at it. Both Moloneys are the same.
Tolj interjects, continuing to deliver dry quips with impeccable timing, much like a Moloney shot. "Andrew lost his first seven fights as an amateur. The current [WBA] world champion [Khalid Yafai], to whom Andrew is the mandatory [challenger], lost his first six fights."
Team Moloney is already meticulously plotting the next move, with fights in the lucrative U.S. market on the horizon, possibly in August. "And we're hoping for both of them," Tolr says, "it will be for world title fights."
Before that, on Saturday at Seagulls Stadium in Tweed Heads (ESPN+, 6 a.m. ET), the Moloneys will take on a pair of Tanzanian fighters, with Jason battling Goodluck Mrema (23-4, 13 KOs), whilst Andrew steps into the ring against Selemani Bangaiza (15-5, 5 KOs). Though they will treat their opponents with the required respect, the Moloneys sees the upcoming fight night resembling a farewell party of sorts.
"We'll start to have the big fights in America when it may be hard for some of our close friends and family to watch us perform for a while," Jason says of Saturday's fights. "We just want to put on a great show for everyone -- two very exciting fights, and two impressive wins. Almost like a celebration, thanking everyone for supporting us over the years."
"I feel like I've really gone to a whole new level," Andrew says of their training camp. "I'm expecting a career-best performance [on Saturday], and really looking to make a statement to the viewers overseas, to everyone in my division, that I'm ready to become world champion. I believe that I am the best in the division at the moment."
There are grand designs of becoming undisputed champions in their respective divisions, with belief stemming from the knowledge that they have taken no shortcuts.
The pair only recently signed on with Top Rank, synonymous with names such as Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao and Roberto Duran. Top Rank's current stable includes the world's top two rated pound-for-pound fighters in unified lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, of Ukraine, and welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford.
"It's a dream to sign with a company like them," Andrew says. "It feels like all our hard work is finally starting to pay off."
"We commit ourselves and live and breathe boxing," Jason adds. "We think we've got a really great team around us. We've got a fantastic coach in Angelo Hyder, and a fantastic manager in Tony. The final piece of the puzzle was a powerhouse promoter that could give us the opportunities that we've been working towards. Someone that can bring us the big fights and allow us to show our full potential ... They're going to give us the platform and give us the opportunities. It comes down to us grabbing those opportunities with both hands and having a very successful career."
With the opportunity to be showcased in a bigger market, what can we expect from the Moloneys? What do they feel are their greatest strengths in the ring?
"Just my desire to be successful," Jason says. "I don't take any shortcuts. I prepare 100 percent and do everything that I need to do to perform on the night. Inside and outside the ring, I live and breathe boxing. I think that there's a lot of talented people in world, but not many people that are willing to make the sacrifices, and give up the things you need to give up to be successful. I think my desire, my passion, and my commitment to the sport are probably my strongest assets."
"I think what Jason said is right," Andrew says. "It's not what we do in the ring, but what we do outside the ring. We live and breathe boxing. We make all the sacrifices."
"We've got a real passion to get better and better," Jason adds. "We're still nowhere near our full potential. Every fight we have, we learn a lot."
According to Tolj, Andrew is like a combination of Duran and Lomachenko. He says Jason, too, resembles Duran, but with a dash of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera.
"They both [ Andrew and Jason] have incredible tanks," Tolj says. "Both are big punchers."
Crucially, both are thinkers.
"I'm trying to read the fight and stay in control of the fight," Jason says of his thought process when the bell rings. "Stay switched on for the full three minutes of every round. At this level you can't afford to make any mistakes or lose focus for one second. You want the fights to be exciting, but it's just complete focus."
Those three minutes resemble a series of moves and countermoves, strategizing and outwitting your enemy.
"I think a lot of people who aren't involved in boxing don't realize how much of it is a mental game -- how much thinking is involved," Andrew says. "It's not just two blokes in there swinging their arms around and hoping for the best. It's like a physical game of chess. You're focused at all times and trying to stay one step ahead of your opponent at all times."
The bigger question, of course, is what the ceiling is for the Moloneys. With their current trajectory, what are the possibilities?
"What do I want to be known for?" Jason ponders out loud.
Tolj cuts in, "Champion of the world."
"Yeah, that's the goal," Jason responds. "At the end of my career, I would love to look back and be listed amongst some of the greatest Australian fighters we've produced. I'm still a long way off that obviously.
"Over the next 5-6 years, if we achieve everything that we want to achieve, I think I can go down as one of the best, and hopefully, one of the guys that changed Australian boxing."
Australian boxing is on its way back up. Yet at the moment, since Jeff Horn lost his welterweight title to Terence Crawford last June, there are no current world champions from Australia.
"Hopefully me and Andrew can become world champions very soon," Jason says, "and as Tony said, dominate the division. Bring some life back into Australian boxing."
"Jason sort of stole my answer," Andrew says. "I don't want to go down as one of the best. I want to go down as the best Australian fighter we've had. That's my goal. I know I have to win multiple world titles to do that. That's my dream."
Saturday marks the next step as part of that journey.