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Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am! Sunny and Rodriguez unify in Arizona

Plus, Ryan Garcia returns, Gill KOs Conlan and more

This post originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Substack

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards will clash over 12 rounds for Rodriguez’s WBO flyweight title and Edwards’ IBF flyweight title next weekend. Headlining at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, Rodriguez will likely be the betting favourite but Edwards is a live champion. 

Both have made previous title defences, but this unification clash is entirely different. Edwards has only knocked out four opponents and often receives criticism for his style and vocal delivery. However, remaining consistent with the trash talk, Sunny has stepped up and accepted the big fight he has long called for.

Edwards’ style means he can make Bam miss. The question is, does he have the offensive firepower to make him pay? Rodriguez’s style has been compared to that of Lomachenko. He also enjoys a move up and down the weights. Appearing heavy on the announcement photo shoot and face-off, Jesse must strip off a few pounds to hit 112. 

Sunny’s movement and switch-hitting ability should cause issues as he looks to bemuse and misdirect his foe. The lack of pop could be a big problem at the highest level, as Michael Conlan found out. The fact Sunny has made it this far is impressive, although that didn’t stop the likes of Paulie Malignaggi from finding a way to win despite brittle hands and a lack of power. 

Upon announcement, Edwards took to X to deliver his personal verdict.

The verdict on Jesse Rodriguez vs. Sunny Edwards in Arizona

Call me crazy, but I think Edwards might get this job done, or at least feel like he has won before receiving some wonky scorecards on away territory. Bam is a quality fighter who has made waves in the lower weights. It could just be Edwards’ moment to shine. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Rodriguez-Edwards undercard shaping up

Last seen losing to Marlon Tapales, the now 11-1 Murodjon Akhmadaliev returns to action against undefeated 26-0-1 Kevin Gonzalez. ‘Chacal’ Gonzalez is a decent southpaw who should give MJ something to think about. Peter and Joe McGrail, Junaid Bostan and Gamal Yafai all feature on a Brit-heavy support card.

This show rounds off a solid end of 2023 for Matchroom Boxing. First was a trip to Belfast where Jordan Gill upset Michael Conlan. Then a December 9 San Francisco headliner between Devin Haney and Regis Prograis. The flyweight unification leads nicely to a heavyweight attraction in Saudi on December 23.

Ryan Garcia bounces back with Duarte destruction

The manner in which a fighter bounces back from a loss says a lot about their character. Eight months ago, Ryan Garcia suffered the first defeat of his career. The exceptional Gervonta Davis dropped him early and finished Ryan off in round seven with a crunching body shot. 

Eight months after that April setback, Garcia returned to action against little-known banger Oscar Duarte. Just as Davis stopped Garcia, the man now known as ‘Super Ry’ did the business one round later in the Toyota Center. 

The Mexican arrived on an 11-fight KO streak. Promoter Oscar De La Hoya insisted this was an opponent to be respected. Garcia took to the pre-fight mic, suggesting he was being set up to fail by the same wayward handlers he locked out of the dressing room afterwards. That relationship is fractured. Garcia’s finish was not.

Garcia ticks all the boxes of a mid-career crisis. A plethora of tattoos, name-checking God in every sentence. All that remains is a head shave and beard growth, although that would likely turn off the remaining female fandom that sits and waits on his every tweet.

In the Texas ring, Duarte struggled to close the distance with his leaden-footed pressure style. Garcia’s subtle movement and unorthodox shoulder roll staved him off for the most part before a flash left hand caught Duarte moving in, and referee James Green promptly doled out a count.

Rising sheepishly at nine-and-a-half, Duarte did just enough to make it appear like he wanted to carry on. Mr Green wasn’t buying the ruse and duly waved it off.

Garcia is 25 years old. This was his first fight under new coach Derrick James after veteran Joe Goossen was unceremoniously ditched. Time will tell how the relationship develops. Garcia’s mental state and personal relationship with the sport of boxing are the most interesting things to keep an eye on.

The Gervonta Davis loss may be viewed as a learning experience. It could also turn out to be a wake-up call for a man who harbours a love-hate connection with his chosen profession. 

Who will Ryan Garcia fight next? That question rests on the future weight class Garcia chooses to compete in. Too big for 135, Garcia moved up to 140, and this fight was later changed to 143. Garcia vs. the winner of Haney-Prograis would be interesting. He called out Rolando Romero after the bout. A fight with Subriel Matias could end badly.

Misery for Mick as Gill thrills Belfast

What was supposed to be the first step on a comeback journey at 130 pounds ended in nightmare fashion for Michael Conlan, who was brutally dismissed in seven rounds by a rampant Jordan Gill. 

The Cambridge man was supposedly drafted over the water as fodder, expected to be dealt with by Conlan. It did not turn out that way, and the 32-year-old Irishman now has a lot of soul-searching to do following his third knockout loss.

For more on this topic, please see my notes from ringside as the SSE Arena event transpired.

Nuthouse Notes

The sight of podgy heavyweight Nathan Gorman having his shorts taped up on Friday evening’s Channel 5 show was rather comical. Not so much for Gorman, who slipped to yet another loss. Losing to Daniel Dubois was no shame. Getting stopped by Fabio Wardley was even excusable. However, this latest defeat to Bohdan Myronets is a new low for a talented fighter who needs to reconsider his role in the sport.

There were impressive stoppage wins for two Golden Boy prospects on the Ryan Garcia undercard. Floyd Schofield would likely consider himself a contender and is rumoured to face JoJo Diaz next. Darius Fulghum improved to 9-0 (all by KO) with a second-round battering of Pachino Hill.

The ‘Battle of the Boobs’ is off this weekend as Avril Mathie withdrew from her all-Aussie clash with Ebanie Bridges, citing an undisclosed injury. Japan’s Miyo Yoshida has stepped in to the void.

About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 500 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: stevenwellings1982@gmail.com.



Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years