Rodriguez unifies belts, defeats Edwards by TKO


Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez scored a ninth-round stoppage of Sunny Edwards on Saturday evening in Glendale, Ariz., to unify the WBO and IBF flyweight titles in an action fight.

Rodriguez slowly broke down Edwards before he floored the Englishman at the end of Round 9 with a jab to the body followed by an overhand left. Edwards crashed into the canvas face-first – a face that was severely marked up – but managed to survive.

There was a deep gash over Edwards’ right eye and his left eye was also cut up. Edwards said he couldn’t see out of either eye by the conclusion, which came when his corner halted the bout following Round 9.

“I brought something out of him tonight that he couldn’t handle,” said Rodriguez, who was named ESPN’s No. 1 boxer under 25 years old last week. ” … He was a lot quicker than I thought; a lot smarter than I thought . … I made him wanna fight … He got caught.”

Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage: 89-81, 87-87 and 87-83.

The 23-year-old from San Antonio entered the ring ESPN’s No. 1 boxer at 112 pounds. Following a sound defeat of the No. 2 fighter in the weight class, Rodriguez could return to 115 pounds, where he was once a champion.

Future Hall of Famer Juan Francisco Estrada was ringside; both Rodriguez and promoter Eddie Hearn indicated the 115-pound champion from Mexico could be next.

“Up close, that was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” said Hearn. “This kid is super special. … You talk about pound-for-pound great fighters. Sometimes the lower division don’t get the credit they deserve.”

Rodriguez emerged from his most-recent fight, a decision win over Cristian Gonzalez Hernandez in August, with a broken jaw. But as “Bam” absorbed several clean overhand lefts during the first few rounds, he proved fully recovered.

He established an active southpaw jab from the opening bell, a punch that served as a table-setter for his heavy left hands but also controlled range.

Rodriguez used that stiff jab as a power punch, too; in Round 2, the jab left Edwards with a large welt around his left eye. The 27-year-old said he couldn’t see from that point forward.

Edwards (20-1, 4 KOs) is known for his boxing ability, defense and footwork, but he elected to sit down on his shots and exchange with Rodriguez in the pocket from Round 3 onward. Edwards often switched to southpaw and unleashed overhand lefts that met their mark.

He began to beat “Bam” to the punch. However, Edwards had only scored four KOs in his 20 victories, and the power wasn’t enough to fend off Rodriguez’s sweltering pressure.

Rodriguez started to impose his size and as the rounds ticked by, his heavier, cleaner shots started to sap Edwards’ legs.

“Bam” stunned Edwards in the closing moments of Round 6 before he dropped his hands, allowing Edwards to catch him with a series of shots.

“I was confident the whole fight,” said Rodriguez. “Maybe too confident.”

It didn’t matter. Edwards was reeling by the end of Round 8 as Rodriguez began to batter him with a bundle of power shots.

Edwards tried to slug it out with Rodriguez in a gutsy display down the stretch, but Rodriguez was simply too strong, too powerful and too good.

“I couldn’t just keep moving, and moving and moving,” said Edwards. “His feet are too good for that, his lead hand was too good for that. I had to make him miss and try to land. …

“The better man won tonight, no excuses. It wasn’t my night tonight but I’ll definitely be back for sure.”

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