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Tiny details seal Sunny Edwards’ fate in fight of extreme sacrifice with Jesse Rodriguez

The British flyweight was beaten for the first time, as he lost in round nine of his title unification in Arizona

Steve Bunce
in Phoenix, Arizona
Monday 18 December 2023 15:08 GMT
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There was simply nothing more that Sunny Edwards could do on Saturday night in his world title fight with Jesse Rodriguez in Phoenix.

Edwards was trailing on points, he had been knocked down heavily with the last punch of round nine, his left cheek was damaged, his nose was cut and an inch-long gash on his right eyebrow had turned the ring red. Edwards was still trying to find a way to win.

The ninth round ended with Edwards on one knee, the referee in front of him counting to eight before the boxer rose and walked wearily back to his corner; seconds later the fight was off and that was the sensible move. Edwards had nothing left to give and there is no code of sacrifice that insists a boxer must risk his life in a lost cause. He had done enough up until that dramatic point.

Rodriguez was brilliant, Edwards was heroic, and their fight was one of the very best so far this year.

The win secured Rodriguez a place as one of boxing’s finest world champions; he is just 23, he has held world titles at two weights, he now has the WBO and IBF flyweight belts, and he is unbeaten in 19 fights. He has the credentials and the style to be a very big star in the business.

Edwards was in the fight until the end of round six, but his facial damage, combined with the extra and smart pressure from Rodriguez changed the fight dramatically from that point. Edwards lost rounds seven, eight and nine of a bloody and relentless fight. His bravery kept him in a dangerous place; Rodriguez was exceptional at closing down the ring, edging closer and landing with power and accuracy.

The first six rounds between Rodriguez (left) and Edwards were competitive (Getty Images)

At the end of six rounds, two of the three scoring judges had the fight even and that was a fair reflection on the furious encounter. Edwards lost rounds nine, eight and nine on all three of the scorecards, but the relevance of the scores from the three men at ringside had stopped being a factor; the fight was never going the distance and it was, by round seven, all about heart and guts and blood from both men.

“The better man won tonight,” said Edwards. “There are no excuses. It’s that simple.” All the pre-fight hostilities had been settled in the ring. However, there were a couple of clowns in Rodriguez’s corner making unnecessary gestures at Edwards when it was called off.

Edwards lost his IBF flyweight title, his unbeaten record and finished the night under observation at a local hospital. It was a fight of extremes and sacrifice, and there is a solid argument that after Edwards was caught and dropped in the last second of round nine, he could have been saved by the referee. Edwards had nothing left to give, his face was a mess and Rodrguez was landing at will.

Rodriguez began to pull ahead prior to the ninth-round finish (Getty Images)

In the early rounds, Edwards had moved well, countered with both precision and power, and the pair turned the anticipated battle of defensive skills into a slugfest; it was not expected, but it was gripping. Rodriguez had the edge in power, but Edwards was matching him during the first six rounds. It was the tiny details that changed the fight, the slight movements by Rodriguez, who cut the ring down to the fighting size he wanted and seldom wasted a punch.

It was also the bloody and painful damage to the Sheffield boxer’s face. The left cheekbone was swollen from the second round and his left eye was blurred from that point.

“He caught me with a jab, and I had double vision after that,” said Edwards. The jab was at the start of round two; the fight stayed competitive for the next five rounds. It was the type of fight and night when reputations are made by both the winner and loser.

In the end, Rodriguez was too good on the night. There was bold talk of a rematch in the midnight hour, but right now Edwards needs to let his face heal, and Rodriguez deserves the praise his fists earned him during an unforgettable fight.

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