Sunny Edwards bruised, battered but defiant after losing world flyweight unification showdown


Sunny Edwards reckons he is ready to go straight back into a top-level challenge despite losing his IBF world flyweight title in America on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old, from Croydon, was retired at the end of the ninth round of his unification bout with WBO champion Jesse Rodriguez at Glendale’s Desert Diamond Arena.

Edwards was dropped heavily by a big left hand in the ninth round but did get to his feet before referee Chris Flores completed his count.

The South Londoner had been busted up by Rodriguez – with a deep cut above his right eye and a badly swollen left eye. Edwards leaned in to talk to his trainer Grant Smith after heading back to his corner, with Smith then indicating his fighter would not continue.

Edwards suffered a first loss in what had previously been a perfect professional record of 20 wins and also hit the canvas for the first time.

He is no longer in possession of the IBF belt he won by outpointing South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane in April 2021.

December 16, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Jesse Rodriguez celebrates his win over Sunny Edwards after their WBO and IBF world flyweight title fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

“My pride is maybe hurt a little bit,” Edwards told Boxing News YouTube channel. “It’s a boxing ring – I know what can happen. I’m very ambitious and I’m a big believer in myself as well, I didn’t really think too much about losing that fight.

“I know Bam (Rodriguez) is a great fighter but the hardest challenges are always what I’ve looked for. Credit to Bam and his team – it was a great performance.

“I knew he’d be good. I knew he’d have good footwork and hit hard. I was expecting a hard fight and I got one. I felt at times I gave as good as I got but when it mattered in the big moments in the fight he was just better.

“From the second round my vision (from his left eye) was noticeably impaired. I was trying to do everything I could and react, based on what I was seeing, but sometimes that was hard with some of the movement and reflexes of Bam. Trying to do what I wanted to do was getting me beaten. I was losing rounds and the conversations I was having in my corner was to go big or go home.

“I felt I had a decent round until I got put down. At that point my vision wasn’t where it needed to be and Grant was already on to me from the eighth round telling me: ‘You don’t realise what your face looks like’. He was telling me: ‘Make something happen now’ or he’s not standing back watching this.

“I got dropped quite heavily and I knew at that point I was skating on thin ice with how much I could see out my left eye and against a very, very good fighter who was coming on the ascendancy. Grant pulled me out and no complaints from me.”

December 16, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Jesse Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards during their WBO and IBF world flyweight title fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

Edwards is still contracted to Matchroom Boxing and revealed even in the immediate aftermath of the Rodriguez showdown that he had discussed what comes next with promoter Eddie Hearn.

Edwards weighed only just above the light-flyweight limit for last weekend’s bout, opening up the potential to drop down.

His conqueror Rodriguez has also made it clear he will move up to super-fly, meaning the IBF and WBO titles will both be vacant soon.

“I feel I’ve got a lot of options,” said Edwards. “Eddie Hearn is still my promoter and it is about whatever conversation he wants to have with me.

“Real fights only – I don’t need any tick over or confidence-booster. Just chuck me in at the deep end and I’ll go again, and again and again.

“Losing to one great fighter doesn’t make me feel any less great a fighter.

“On a slightly different day things could’ve gone a slightly different way – whether that would’ve made it go my way I don’t know. But I am very confident about my future and my career prospects.

“I don’t feel like I was completely outclassed. Things just didn’t go right for me in the fight that I needed, whereas on other nights they have.

“I’m 27, about to turn 28, and I still feel I have got years left. I think my whole life is going to be consumed by boxing.

“There are negatives right now – I’m not world champion anymore – but I’m taking big strides in the right direction. I’m taking part in big events, crossing over to America and big unification fights.

“I loved being part of a fight that people genuinely cared about. It was my favourite ringwalk. As a flyweight I don’t think I ever expected to have that moment. I grew up seeing flyweights as always the entree – they would have a world title fight and it would be the second bout on the broadcast.

“So while I feel disappointed, I can sit back and look at where I came from and what people thought I would get to – what they thought I would be capable of achieving.

“This is a setback but I am still very, very grateful for what I have got and achieved.

“The best man won but I’ll be back. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

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