Saturday’s flyweight title bout between Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards doesn’t have the buzz among casual fans that last weekend’s Devin Haney-Regis Prograis fight did, and it certainly won’t match the hype afforded to December 23rd’s heavyweight card in Saudi Arabia.
But as they say, if you know you know, and boxing purists have already cleared their schedule to watch Rodriguez and Edwards get after it at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, and that’s the way it should be. Call it an early Christmas present as these 112-pounders do what fighters in and around that weight class do:
They try harder.
Yes, that’s the old Avis slogan, but among the lightest weight classes in the sport, some of the best fights are happening between some of the best fighters in the world. Just look at the series of bouts between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadras over the last several years. They were so good that calling them the modern-day version of the “Four Kings” wasn’t seen as blasphemy by the hardcore fanbase.
Of course, that didn’t mean mainstream stardom for any of that quartet, but respect was earned, money was made, and legacies secured.
Now, apparently, it’s Rodriguez’ turn.
Just 23, the San Antonio southpaw had a breakout year in 2022, when he garnered Fighter of the Year consideration for wins over Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai followed by a third victory over Israel Gonzalez. The win over Cuadras put a 115-pound world title around his waist that he successfully defended twice, but when he returned in April, it was at 112 pounds, where he captured the WBO title by defeating Cristian Gonzalez Hernandez, setting the stage for a unification fight against London’s Edwards, who has held his IBF crown since April of 2021, defending it four times against challengers with a combined record of 81-3 since.
Yes, it’s a fight. And it’s one Edwards (20-0, 4 KOs) has been craving, despite being the one who has cemented himself as perhaps the best of the bunch among the champions at 112 pounds at the moment.
“When I signed with Matchroom, it didn’t matter if it was Bam, Quadras, Estrada, (Julio Cesar) Martinez,” said Edwards on the recent edition of Matchroom Boxing’s Face Off show. “It didn’t matter who it was, I was fighting them. Bam is probably the biggest and the hardest name in my division right now. So it was one I was definitely pushing for – one of the top 15 ‘25-pounders in the world. They’re the fights I want to be in. I chase greatness, not fake, unbeaten records.”
There’s nothing fake about either fighter’s “0”. They’ve gotten here the hard way, but unlike many, they’re not taking their foot off the gas. They’ve risking all the momentum they’ve built up on Saturday, and that truly is chasing greatness.
So who leaves the desert one step closer to their goal? Rodriguez (18-0, 11 KOs) is the betting favorite, and after the year he had in 2022, it’s hard to argue with that. As for the weight, that shouldn’t be an issue, considering that he’s fought most of his 18-fight career at or below the 112-pound weight limit. And with Edwards possessing a high Fight IQ but little power, it makes the matchup quite intriguing, especially if he can’t hurt the Texan. But Edwards isn’t worried about the power discrepancy; the 27-year-old knows what he brings to the table and is confident that his experience and intelligence will allow him to leave his first bout in the United States with his belt intact and another one to go along with it.
“When you get the younger fighters, you see them waver a bit, you see the eyes move, you see expressions on their face, you see them miss a shot and really try to get it (back),” said Edwards on Face Off. “You hear the crowd going and they’re reacting to it. You’re just a bit more temperamental with everything that’s going on around you. For me, personally anyway, you spend a couple rounds making the veteran miss, all they’re thinking is ‘I’m gonna get you.’ Spend a couple rounds making a prospect that’s been punching people’s heads in, and all of a sudden, their world’s falling apart. ‘What is going on? Boxing doesn’t look like this for me. Where I’m living it looks like this.’ And he’s been so dominant.”
He has been, and while Edwards makes valid points, the fact is that beating Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai is always going to be a big deal for a kid who hasn’t hit his 25th birthday yet and has less than 20 pro fights, and that has to send his confidence sky high before any fight, including this one.
“I know I’m number one, and no one can beat me,” Rodriguez told host Ade Oladipo on Face Off.
“He’s a great fighter, but he’s not been in the ring with me yet,” countered Edwards.
On Saturday, only one flyweight will be right. And what fun it will be to find out who it is.