Sunny Levels Up: Edwards To Take On Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez In Breakout Fight

The self-proclaimed "most avoided man in boxing" gets the A-list opponent he craves
15:00, 23 Jun 2023

Sunny Edwards promised big fights when he signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom. The IBF flyweight champion has toiled on various TV channels and in venues as diverse as York Hall and Dubai’s Duty Free Tennis stadium during his world title reign. Now he will take centre stage for a hugely anticipated unification fight with highly-regarded WBO titlist Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez.

The lower weights often struggle for recognition in the western world, but make no mistake, this is one of the best fights made so far in 2023. Two fighters in their twenties who are yet to taste defeat, with box office charisma and the belts to match. While a date and venue is yet to be confirmed, this flyweight throwdown is set to be a hot ticket.

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Edwards cops a lot of flack for his online persona. In an era when one unwise comment can lead to the dreaded cancellation, the Surrey-born stylist constantly courts controversy. Whether it was outing a high-profile boxing journalist for an alleged text exchange with his sister or going to war with every keyboard warrior in his path, Edwards is as far from stage-managed as it gets.

While his online flame wars happened in the public eye, the obscure nature of Edwards’ actual fights threatened to leave them overshadowed. A supreme talent, the 27-year-old’s skills were at risk of being forgotten due to unkind scheduling and the prevalence of his online persona. Such an outcome was unfair considering ‘Showtime’ was beating quality men like Moruti Mthalane and Felix Alvarado in his title bouts.

Another point going against Edwards’ bid for stardom was his meagre knockout ratio. The IBF boss has stopped just four of his 20 foes. While the primacy of Floyd Mayweather’s late career showed knockouts aren’t everything, this is a particularly measly percentage. However, to focus unduly on this is to discount the world class skills Edwards can conjure.

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Sunny is one of boxing’s true artists when in full flow. A master of the edict “hit and don’t get hit”, he can frustrate and flounder the most determined foe. While he is no master at closing the show, his knockdowns of Jayson Mama and Hiram Gallardo in world title bouts show that his skills can cause top opponents to come unglued. The casual fan may look past any fighter they can’t watch a YouTube knockout reel of, but the more discerning will find much to be thrilled by in his artful movement and creative angled punching.

But will these immense gifts be enough to derail ‘Bam’? Rodriguez is a tad more destructive, having stopped 11 of his 18 victims. He has also carried that power up to super flyweight in the past, winning his sole defence of the WBC crown at the weight via eighth-round TKO over Srisaket Sor Rungviai. While ‘Bam’ possesses no shortage of skill, one assumes he will lean on his power for a result here.

It’s a result he will find hard, possibly impossible, to come by. Edwards proved against Marcel Braithwaite that he can rally. Cut and dropped in a British title attraction, he stepped on the gas to emerge a wide winner on the cards. Out-powering Edwards is no sure-fire way to beat him. The challenge is hitting the champion enough to take him off a gameplan that has so far looked unflappable.

These intangibles are what makes Edwards vs Rodriguez one of this year’s most anticipated fights. Someone will come away with two world titles and a genuine claim to be on the pound-for-pound list. Beyond that, it’s a chance for two stalwarts of the lower weights to garner the super-stardom their abilities deserve. However, while they will share the spotlight, only one will be allowed to keep it. To the victor go the spoils.

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