Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

No catch, no tricks: Sunny Edwards vs Bam Rodriguez is a rare, special fight

Edwards ventures to Arizona with his IBF flyweight title, looking to return to Britain with Jesse Rodriguez’s WBO belt around his waist

Steve Bunce
Monday 11 December 2023 09:29 GMT
I'm a Celeb's Tony Bellew opens up on dangers of boxing and brain injuries to campmates

Sunny Edwards is a flyweight world champion, and that means he weighs in at about 150lb lighter than Tyson Fury. And on Saturday, Edwards travels from his gym in Sheffield to Arizona, to meet the man considered the No 1 flyweight in the world, Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez.

But there is far more at stake than a couple of title belts and the right for the winner to call himself the best at his weight, and one of the very best in the world. It is not just a little, fighting man thing – this is a special fight at any weight, anywhere.

Sure, it has gone under the radar and that happens when you weigh about as much as Fury’s left leg. It is arguably the most important fight that a British boxer – male or female – has been in this year.

Both are unbeaten, both hold a version of the world title, both are at their weight, and both are young. There are no tricks with scales, and they are not battling the unbeatable clock, chasing a final payday against a young upstart; this is as good as it gets, but they are flyweights. It would take nearly three of them to equal Fury’s fattest fighting weight.

Edwards won the IBF title in 2021 when he totally dominated and won every round against South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane. It was at York Hall, it was low key, but Mthalane had not lost in 13 years and was the No 1 flyweight in the world. It was class, pure boxing and confidence. Sunny deserved far more credit than he received.

Edwards, left, en route to a decision win over Andres Campos in June (Getty)

Edwards, now 27, has made four defences since that night; all have been good, but the win over Felix Alvarado proved just how good he is. Alvarado is still a dangerous man in the division, still a real contender, still a threat. So many fighters that lose world-title challenges just fade and vanish; they come from nowhere and go back there silently in defeat. The five title fights helped build Edwards’ reputation and bank balance, but he has remained at the edge of recognition. So far, in five 12-round fights, nobody has solved him; Edwards is smart, clever, instinctive and fast.

It is a real fight, no freak elements, just an unbeaten British world champion fighting another unbeaten world champion. It does happen, it is happening. Saying that, Sunny would outbox and bewilder the very best from the world of MMA; his opponents would need a large handful of rice to have any chance of touching him with anything. He has the purest of skills, but they are skills that divide fans. Floyd Mayweather ducked low, scampered away, never got hit and he was a genius; Sunny Edwards does that and he is “boring to watch”. It is unfair and stupid.

He is also unbeaten in 20 fights and, on Saturday in Phoenix, the business gets very real.

Rodriguez is the best man he has ever met and that is what makes this clash of unbeaten world champions so very special. Rodriguez, who is from Texas but has fought in Phoenix before, is unbeaten in 18 fights.

Rodriguez, right, beat Israel Gonzalez on all three scorecards in September (Getty)

Rodriguez is just 23, looks younger, but those schoolboy looks are deceptive; he has held the title at super-flyweight and beat a couple of great, but old, fighters during that period. His wins over Carlos Cuadras and Wisaksil Wangek, formerly known as Sor Rungvisai, are impressive. They are quality scalps, better than any of the men that Edwards has so far beaten. Rodriguez looked untouchable in those fights. He won the WBO flyweight title earlier this year and he puts that up against the IBF belt that Edwards has. It is part unification, but more than that, it is the very best two men in the world at 112lbs dead, fighting each other in one ring.

“The talking is over,” said Edwards. “This is a big fight, a real fight, the type of fight that boxing always needs. It is rare that two men in their prime, two men with titles, two unbeaten men meet each other.”

Edwards is right, there always seems to be a catch when we get unification fights like this. Last weekend’s amazing performance by Devin Haney to win a title at 140lbs is a good example; Regis Prograis was nine years older, and it showed. He also underestimated Haney, and that is one of boxing’s biggest sins.

“I know how good Sunny is,” Rodriguez said in London a few weeks ago. “He’s a very good fighter. I'm better, and I hope he knows that.” Sunny does, trust me – nobody in either camp believes this will be an easy night.

On Saturday night, on the outskirts of Phoenix, in Glendale, Edwards and Rodriguez will show us all what happens when the best fight the best. There will be pride and brilliance in equal measure; Edwards can win one of the great victories by a British boxer overseas.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in