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Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez v Sunny Edwards: Briton’s corner stop unification fight at end of ninth round

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British flyweight Sunny Edwards lost his IBF world title and an opportunity to unify the division in a stoppage defeat by the sensational Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez in Arizona.

Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez v Sunny Edwards: Briton's corner stop unification fight at end of ninth round
Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez v Sunny Edwards: Briton’s corner stop unification fight at end of ninth round

American Rodriguez dropped the previously undefeated Edwards with a straight left hand in the ninth.

Edwards, marked up beneath both eyes, beat the count but his corner stopped the fight before the 10th.

“This is a hell of a fighter,” Edwards, who suffered a first career loss, said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the 27-year-old added: “My tricks that usually get me out of the way of shots, he was getting on to them.

“I just couldn’t see. From the second round, my eye was completely blurry and from about round six I got cut. It was getting hard in there, more through the vision.”

He lost for the first time in his 21st professional outing as Rodriguez added the IBF belt to his WBO world title, extending his record to 19 wins with 12 knockouts.

Edwards comes up short against special Rodriguez

Having made Rodriguez wait in the ring, Edwards – no stranger to mind games – finally made his entrance to a chorus of boos at the Desert Diamond Arena.

He smiled and danced in his corner, seemingly relishing the attention.

Edwards began sharply but Rodriguez responded well – a counter right landed flush on Edwards in the second, causing the left eye to instantly swell.

With a seven-inch reach advantage, southpaw Rodriguez began to work behind the jab. Both men enjoyed success in the third as chants of ‘Bam’ echoed around the arena but Edwards found his rhythm, landing a beautiful counter left in the fourth to leave the bout evenly poised.

World-title fights in the lower divisions often go under the radar. But while this may not have attracted the attention of casual sports fans, it was made for the purists, and the elite level of boxing on show was clear to see in the fifth.

Edwards countered a Rodriguez attack, who then began to unload. Some punches landed, others were evaded by Edwards’ smart defence.

For all his skills, though, the Londoner has been sometimes guilty of complacency in the past and was caught off guard in the sixth.

Edwards goaded Rodriguez to bring the fight to him. The American accepted the invitation, unleashing a barrage of shots with his opponent on the ropes. It was then the home fighter’s turn to showboat, poking his tongue out to his rival as Edwards landed a clean right hand.

As the fight progressed, the eye-catching and hurtful punches were coming from Rodriguez with Edwards feeling the pace.

The doctor took a look at Edwards’ eye before the ninth, and by this stage, the Briton needed a unlikely knockout, with just four of his 20 wins coming inside the distance.

Instead it was ‘Bam’ who delivered the final blow as Edwards’ punch resistance had dwindled.

He hit the canvas for the third time as a professional. “Do you want to go?” referee Michael Flores asked him as he stumbled back to his corner. His team had the towel ready to go and instructed the official to end the fight.

Earlier in the night, Birmingham’s Olympic gold medallist Galal Yafai continued his unbeaten professional run a with a unanimous decision win over flyweight Rocco Santomauro and British light-middleweight Junaid Bostan outpointed Gordie Russ II.

Liverpool featherweight Joe McGrail stopped Edgar Ortiz Jr in the second round but there was a shock defeat for his older brother, Peter McGrail. The super-bantamweight was knocked out in the fifth round by American Ja’Rico O’Quinn.

‘I’ll be back – boxing is all I’ve got’

Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez v Sunny Edwards: Briton's corner stop unification fight at end of ninth round
Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez v Sunny Edwards: Briton’s corner stop unification fight at end of ninth round

Despite the disappointment in defeat, this can still be considered a breakout fight for Edwards. His rise through the ranks was low-key, having won the IBF title back in 2021 to little fanfare.

“I’m bitterly disappointed, but grateful to be in the main event,” he said. “Flyweight boxers, we don’t get this.

“I’ll be back. Boxing is all I’ve got. Just a bit disappointed my eye went so early on. But, yes, no excuses from me.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn added: “Sunny will get stick because he’s so outspoken but I also think he’s going to win a lot of fans tonight with that bravery on both sides of the Atlantic.”

In a contest between boxing’s two most talented flyweights, Rodriguez demonstrated just why he is considered one of the most exciting pound-for-pound fighters in boxing.

At just 23, he is already a two-weight champion and is now a unified world champion at flyweight.

“Everyone was saying I’m a hype job, talking a lot of trash on social media,” he said.

The face-off between the two fighters at Thursday’s news conference lasted a staggering seven minutes, but there was plenty of mutual respect post-fight.

Rodriguez visited Edwards’ dressing room while the former champion was receiving stiches to his eyes.

“I’d love to get some sparring in with you,” Edwards told Rodriguez as the pair exchanged pleasantries.

Rodriguez is now seeking a return to super-flyweight to challenge Mexico’s WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.

For Edwards, there is an opportunity to become a two-time world champion if he continues at flyweight.

Ukrainian Artem Dalakian is the WBA champion but the more lucrative contest – and with the potential of an exciting build-up – would be against Julio Cesar Martinez.

The Mexican faced Edwards’ brother Charlie in 2019 – and was originally been awarded a knockout victory. But it was then ruled a no contest, with Martinez judged to have landed a punch while his opponent was on the floor.

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