|Jesse Rodriguez says he wants to be remembered as a legend of the sport – and that starts by taking Sunny Edwards’ belt and unbeaten record as they clash in a Flyweight unification blockbuster at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday night, live worldwide on DAZN.
WBO king Rodriguez (18-0 11 KOs) returns to the state where he landed his first World title back in February 2022 when he defeated Carlos Cuadras to land the WBC Super-Flyweight strap. The San Antonio star defended that title twice with wins over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Israel Gonzalez before becoming a two-weight champion on home turf in April by seeing off Christian Hernandez.
Edwards (20-0 4 KOs) finally gets the blockbuster showdown that he’s been craving after becoming the IBF champion in April 2021 with a trademark classy win over Moruti Mthalane in London. A pair of successful defenses in Dubai followed in December against Jayson Mama and in March over Muhammad Waseem before victory in defense number three followed in his adopted Sheffield hometown over Felix Alvarado.
It’s a first ever unification bout for both men and the victor will be crowned the number one in the division, and is exactly the sort of bout that the 25 year old American feels he can get his teeth into. ‘Bam’ knows that Edwards has the goods to make it an exciting fight but having already seen off a modern-great in Rungvisai, Rodriguez feels that he’s a step too far for the Briton.
“This fight is going to be exciting,” said Rodriguez. “The sky is the limit for me; anybody, anywhere. He’s a very good fighter, very technical, very skillful, fast, smart. I knew one day down the line we would meet up and here it is. He hasn’t been in with someone with the skills I have, and with the power on top of that. I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to win, I’m taking his belt, and I’m taking his ‘0’. I’m going to knock him out.
“I want to be remembered as a legend, as a fighter that never dodged a fight. I’m here for a good time, not a long time. I feel like I have what it takes to not only drop him but to finish the fight early.
“I decided to get an AirBnB for this fight and separate myself from the camp house. There’s a lot on the line, so I wanted to be as comfortable as possible, so little things like that play a big part in training camp.
“I do this to myself because I want to have a better life. I have a daughter on the way, I want to provide everything she ever needs. I’m a lot more motivated, every day i think about my daughter. I want to provide everything for her, so I am going extra hard, harder than I ever have before. What does it take to be the best? It’s hard work, dedication, sacrifice, heart and a lot of will.
“My jaw feels good. It’s a little numb but the doctor said it would be like that for a while. I’m felt a little crack and then my ear started ringing so I knew something was up. I was able to bear it and finish the fight. I didn’t enjoy the win. I went straight to the hospital and got surgery on the Monday, and then I was on the six-week diet, strictly pudding, smoothies, milkshakes, whatever I could eat without chewing was what I was on, but as long as I’ve got my coffee, I’m good.
“A lot of things have changed since becoming World champion. In San Antonio, they treat me like a king. I go into restaurants and get free food and free coffees in the coffee shops. I was living at home before the World title fight, but after winning the title I got my own apartment and started living on my own. Life has been amazing since then. I appreciate what I did that day, but it’s in the past now. I have the biggest fight of my life coming up and I use that feeling as motivation because I know winning this one would be ten times what I felt back then.”
Rodriguez and Edwards clash on a stacked night of action in Arizona, with chief support action provided by the the WBA World Super-Bantamweight title eliminator battle between former champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-1 8 KOs) and #2 ranked Mexican Kevin Gonzalez (26-0-1 13 KOs).
The main event stars unbeaten British World ruler Edwards, and four more Brits cross the pond to end their 2023 in the US. Galal Yafai (5-0 4 KOs) defends his WBC International Flyweight title against Rocco Santomauro (22-2 6 KOs), Peter McGrail (8-0 5 KOs) fights in the States for the first time in the paid ranks, and fights for his first pro title as he takes on Ja’Rico O’Quinn (16-1-1 8 KOs) for the WBA Continental Super-Bantamweight belt. McGrail’s younger brother Joe McGrail (7-0 3 KOs), who fights for the eighth time in the pros against Brandon Rosales Marquez (6-5-2) over six rounds at Featherweight. The fifth Brit to step through the ropes on the night will be rising star Junaid Boston (7-0 6 KOs), with the Rotherham talent tackling unbeaten Detroit man Gordie Russ II (6-0 6 KOs) over eight rounds at Super-Welterweight.
Completing the line-up in Arizona are Californian Arturo Popoca (11-0-1 7 KOs) who faces Carlos Mujica (8-3 3 KOs) over eight rounds at Super-Bantamweight and Albert Gonzalez (5-0 2 KOs) who takes on Robenilson Vieira de Jesus (5-1 1 KO) over six rounds at Featherweight.