Face Off: Jesse Bam Rodriguez vs Sunny Edwards!
(December 5th) The two best Flyweights in the World Jesse Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards are the latest 'Face Off' special hosted by Ade Oladipo in the build-up to December 16's unification bout in Glendale, Arizona. Watch as the WBO and IBF Champs go back n' forth!
Murodjon Akhmadaliev will face Kevin Gonzalez in an eliminator for the WBA World Super-Bantamweight title as the chief support bout to the Flyweight unification blockbuster between Jesse Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday December 16, live worldwide on DAZN – with Edwards being joined by four fellow British talents on the card.
Akhmadaliev (11-1 8 KOs) is gunning to get a shot at winning the WBA title back after the former unified king surrendered the crown along with the IBF strap via a majority decision loss against Marlon Tapales in San Antonio in April. The Uzbek star ripped the belts from Daniel Roman in February 2020 in Miami and successfully defended them three times before the reversal against Tapales, and now the 29-year-old will be looking to take a massive step towards gaining one of his old titles back early in 2024 with victory.
Gonzalez (26-0-1 13 KOs) will have other ideas though and can catapult himself into the big leagues by handing Akhmadaliev back-to-back defeats. The Mexican, who sits at #2 in the WBA rankings behind the Uzbek, was last in action in March where he defeated Jose Sanmartin in Las Vegas. The unbeaten 25-year-old tastes action in the States for the third straight fight having beaten Emanuel Rivera Nieves in California in May 2022, and fights over 12 rounds for the first time in the biggest fight of his career to date.
“I am excited to return to the ring,” said Akhmadaliev. “No matter what happened in the last fight, my goal is to fight for justice and to return what is mine.”
“I feel very happy and optimistic with the opportunity that has been given to me,” said Gonzalez. “I will have a very difficult fight, probably the toughest fight of my life. Akhmadaliev is a former unified World champion, who not only has had a very successful professional career, but has a great amateur record as well. While I believe he is a very tough fighter, I also believe boxing is a sport of timing and moments, and this is my moment.
“I will make the most out of this moment so everyone can see that Mexico has a great product. I don’t see myself losing. Failure is not an option. This will be a very tough fight and I am preparing accordingly, both physically and mentally. This fight will be a crowd-pleasing fight. I’m prepared to go through hell and I am ready for a war. I want to thank Matchroom, my promoter Juan Iván Orengo and Fresh Productions for always looking after me and getting me the best fights, and my manager Jacob Najar for always having my back.
“Since day one my manager always told me that someday I would fight for a World title and that time is approaching. He also told me that I would fight in big stages. Now, I have the opportunity to fight in a card promoted by the biggest promoter in the world. I will make the best of my chance under the lights and the cameras. It is my moment and, come December 16, the world will know who Kevin “El Chacal” González is: a full Gallo from Mexico.”
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 will be hoping to get his job done and take his seat for the main event, and it is a second outing in America as he defends his WBC International Flyweight title against Rocco Santomauro. Yafai (5-0 4 KOs) won the title on debut in London in February 2022 and traveled to New York to make his first defense two months later. Last time out, Yafai destroyed Tommy Frank in a hometown Birmingham in August, and the Olympic gold medal man will look to close 2023 out in style against the experienced Californian Santomauro (22-2 6 KOs).
“I am looking forward to fighting on a great card in Arizona,” said Yafai. “The main event is one that I will be watching closely being in the same division as me – but I have work to do first, and all the focus is on doing a job on Santomauro.”
“I am grateful for this opportunity against a strong opponent like Yafai,” said Santomauro. “I am ready to show the world why I belong on the main stage.”
Peter McGrail 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 for the WBA Continental Super-Bantamweight belt. McGrail (8-0 5 KOs) bagged a second wide points win of 2023 in his last action on his home patch in Liverpool last month, and now the 27-year-old can cap his year by adding his first pro honors to his wealth of amateur titles with victory over Detroit’s O’Quinn (16-1-1 8 KOs).
“I am really buzzing for this one,” said McGrail. “I think the US fans are going to love my style of fighting. I can’t wait to get over there and show them what I’m about. Thank you to my team for keeping me active, I am ready to close the year in style and keep improving and impressing.”
“I told Eddie Hearn last summer when we were in Detroit that I want to fight for Matchroom,” said O’Quinn. “I’m about to give McGrail an American boxing lesson. He’s going to get schooled by the Great Lakes king.”
It’s a family affair for McGrail as he kicks off the main card on DAZN, after the Before the Bell action will be launched by his 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 and also starring in the Before the Bell portion of the card 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.
Rodriguez / Edwards Launch Presser!
(September 22nd) It's time to Unify! Who will be King? Jesse Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards do battle for the WBO and IBF World Flyweight Titles on Dec 16 in Arizona. Watch as the pair come face to face for the first time in this press conference hosted by Eddie Hearn.
After months of calling out Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez, Croydon, London, UK, Kingdom Sunny “Showtime” Edwards, IBF World Flyweight champion has finally got his wish and will face San Antonio, Texas, WBO title holder December 16th in Arizona.
The Eddie Hearn - Matchroom Boxing, IBF/WBO World Flyweight unification event will take place Saturday, December 16th, live worldwide on DAZN from Desert Diamond Arena, Glendale, Arizona.
Here’s what the fighters had to say:
Jesse Rodriguez (18-0 11 KOs): “I’ve never been one to say no to a fight, I’ve always said yes. This is the best vs. the best, it’s what every boxer dreams of, unifying titles. December 16 is going to be a movie.
“We’re two different people, he shows his confidence running his mouth, I show mine in the ring. I never have my will broken, in my last fight I broke my jaw and kept going for six rounds, that shows the confidence I have in myself, I know that anyone that I get in the ring with, I am going to beat.
“Sunny is a great fighter, every fight of his I’ve seen he’s the one on the back foot, hitting and moving, hit and don’t get hit, but I feel like he hasn’t faced anyone like me, someone with good footwork and the determination to win.
“This is the biggest fight of my career and I’m excited to finally face-off with Sunny. I saw a lot of talk about the fight before it was signed, so I know a lot of people are going to buy their tickets and tune in on December 16. My people from San Antonio are coming and I think it’s going to be like another hometown fight.
“I don’t need to hurt him. I just need to outpoint him. My last fight was a little glimpse of how the fight is going to go. I feel like I will be ready on December 16 and people need to tune in for something special. I’m going to go in and do what I do, it’s got me this far, this is no different. I’ll have the same mindset, a little different game plan that Robert and I are going to work on, so I’ll be ready. That belt right there is coming back to San Antonio.”
Sunny Edwards (20-0 4 KOs): “Thank you to you Eddie, to DAZN, Bam and his team, Robert Garcia and Mr Honda; this is the fight that I have been waiting for before it was even Bam. Before he went up in the weights and shocked a great fighter and continued to do all of that, before that I’ve been waiting for the big event, and I think Jesse is one of the best fighters under 30 in the world right now, I don’t think it’s the only time we’ll be sat here and I don’t think it’s the only weight we’ll fight at either, I think we’ll see each other again.
“I’m really looking forward to the event, the whole process so far has been great - thanks for the first-class tickets, Eddie, we flew comfortably - this is what it’s about, sitting here, seeing his WBO title. I was on the WBO route before I was on the IBF route, so I’ve got all the WBO and IBF baubles around my house, so to have the two proper belts is a dream come true.
“I crave the challenge. Boxing has probably been too easy for me; I’ve been too much within myself. I am already into camp, I’ve been in Tenerife for a couple of weeks, had great sparring, I’m flying, if anything, the amount of time is a problem, but we have a good run up, we can build the fight up and it gives Bam time to recover from the last fight and the injury, I know what that’s like because I’ve been there myself. So, there was never questions like ‘should we take this fight?’ ‘Is this a good fight for me?’ When I signed with you Eddie, I said all the names I wanted to fight and what price, whenever and wherever, it wasn’t an issue who or where. I wanted the best fight and the easiest one to make, so props to the champion on your right, he’s the first person in my pro career that is a fight that I’ve wanted and got.
“Mind games, trying to get little advantages, get them in certain gloves, the ring size - all of that is so immaterial to me. He’s a great fighter, he’s shown that he’ll fight scarier fighters than me on paper at a weeks’ notice, so am I going to try and get inside his head? I don’t need to. His approach, demeanor and character in the sport is who he is, he’s not trying to be anyone else, he hasn’t taken this fight and started acting different. I don’t think I need an advantage; I think I am good enough, Bam is a tremendous fighter but the reality is to walk through the gates and get to the other side where I show how good I am, that I’ve got to go through a 23 year old fighter, that’s just the way I see it, a 30 year old Bam will be better than a 23 year old one.
“I’ve been in with fighters every bit as good as him, fighters that if he was in with them, it would be a hard fight for him. We’ll find out about each other in the ring. I don’t need to get in his head, I just like speaking about the fight and every day I wake up excited about it. I was talking more about Bam in the Campos fight week than I was caring about Campos. I knew I was going to beat him, I could have beaten him with my eyes closed, so I stood in range and let him throw as many punches as he wanted, and he still couldn’t beat me. Bam will be different, he’s more dangerous and a lot better, but at the same time, it’ll bring a better version of me out and I’m already seeing that in camp.
“It’s easy to just say ‘you have to cut the ring off against Sunny’ - everyone can cut the ring off. The thing with me is, I don’t go in with a set plan; I get in there, measure my range, and let them beat themselves. I don’t knock people out, I don’t need to, 16 unanimous decisions. I’ve beaten the best in the world, people that haven’t lost in 13 years, eight years, lots of KOs. I’m not scared of them, I sit in the pocket and trade with them, there’s nothing I haven’t seen in a boxing ring. He has got very good footwork, I’ll give him that, but defensively, reactions, composure, ring IQ - I feel I’ve got a skillset and mindset that is very hard to break down, to even get two rounds of success in a row is a hard enough task for most of my opponents.
“Maybe Bam is that first fighter in my 18 years of boxing that I will get in and feel like ‘he’s really good’, but I don’t think so. His youth with count against him once he gets in there. He talks about it being a home fight, they made sure of that, last year his team were saying they were coming to the UK to take my belt, that didn’t happen, he won the WBO as a vacant title at home. I never said ‘it has to be in the UK’ because I didn’t care. I never stalled on money, the ring size; that to me shows signs of a team that doesn’t have full belief in their system. I felt great disrespect from his stablemate and a legend in Chocolatito that he said that this is an easy fight for him; no-one has ever had an easy fight with me and it’s not going to start now. My message is clear, I beat Bam and there’s only one fight I want and that’s Roman Gonzalez.
“It’s only people that just watch me on fight night that say I don’t have any power. When I get in the ring, I make sure I win, I’m sorry my ego isn’t insecure enough that I’ll be sat there in the third round thinking ‘Eddie is saying I need to knock him out, I better do it’. The only thing that matters to me in my career is my contract, the roof over my kids’ heads and their schooling is winning. I get in there and win. Come down and watch me spar and then talk about who can and can’t punch hard. I don’t get in the ring and try to take people’s heads off.
“I get in there and give myself 100 per cent chance of the win. I don’t put myself in a position to land a big shot and can catch one back, and that’s going to be his biggest task in the fight. Is he the bigger puncher? Maybe. I think he plants his feet and tries to punch holes in people more, and it is, for some eyes, more exciting and entertaining, easier to market, easier to promote. It doesn’t make him any more likely to win, if anything, I would pick the fighter that gets in the ring in the first round and gets out after the 12th, and barely loses and minute or second of the fight.
“Regardless of how powerful or exciting it is, you look at the champions now, the Devin Haneys, the Shakur Stevensons, they do very little wrong. Are they going out there constantly trying to blow people out, no they are not. They box them and react to what is in front of them, and I think I do that. A 23 year old Bam is going to try to impress, maybe try to hurt me and say ‘no-one else has hurt him, but I can, I am that guy’. I am saying he’s not and no one in these weight classes is. But his ego and his pride will make him force it and that will be the thing that unravels him. If you look at me and think that I’m fragile or easy, you probably haven’t watched all my fights because I can stand there for two minutes and two or three shots get through from like 100 maybe?
“I’ve got a very good defense inside and outside the pocket. I think I am enigma, a Rubik’s cube tied up in a puzzle and a riddle after it. You can’t prepare for what I bring into the ring, you can’t plan for it because no-one sees life like I do, let alone a boxing ring. No-one sees the work I’ve put in, the years of graft. I could sit here and name fighters in your stable weights above me that I have had in my gym, fresh when I’ve six rounds work and I’ve stood them on their head. I’m not going to, but I could, World champions, European champions, British champions, Featherweights, Super-Featherweights - and they couldn’t argue. I’m comfortable in the boxing ring, it’s the only thing I know.
“It’s going to be a good fight, a great event, people are going to show out and I am just excited to be a part of it and 100 per cent confident of the win.”
About DAZN Group
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About Matchroom Boxing
After the success of snooker in the 1980s, Matchroom Sport moved into boxing with two small hall shows followed by Frank Bruno v Joe Bugner at Tottenham Hotspur’s ground – the biggest boxing event of 1987. That launched the company into the boxing big-time, a position it has maintained ever since.
Through the 1990s Matchroom Sport’s boxing roster featured many of the biggest names in the sport including Lennox Lewis, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins and Naseem Hamed, all in world title fights and it continues to work with some of the biggest names in UK boxing including Audley Harrison, the 2000 Olympic Super-Heavyweight gold medalist.
Over the years, Matchroom Sport has built up long-standing relationships with broadcasters around the world and with the advent of the Prizefighter phenomenon, the company’s boxing division has never been in a stronger position.
From fantastic six round scraps between the sport’s journeymen, up to multi-million-dollar World Championship contests featuring the above fighters, the Pro Box series has it all. Each show is packed with the very best in boxing action in a series that encompasses almost 25 years of Matchroom Sport’s commitment to bringing the highest quality to the global television market.