Good fights aren’t always big fights.
The reverse is true as well.
While some may lament the lack of the latter through the end of the year, particularly as regards a certain welterweight clash that ain’t happening, boxing has plenty of good fights to keep fans invested and excited through the end of the year.
One of them arrives this Friday in Sheffield, England (FiteTV, 12:30 PM EST).
London’s 26-year old IBF flyweight titlist Sunny Edwards (18-0, 4 KO) will attempt the third defense of his belt against a serious, streaking contender. 33-year old Nicaraguan former IBF light flyweight titlist Felix Alvarado (38-2, 33 KO) is coming in hot. Alvarado secured a win at flyweight in May and has won twenty straight since consecutive losses to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco more than eight years ago.
It’s a fight pitting the skill and savvy of Edwards against the physicality and heavier hands of Alvarado. For Edwards, it will be his fourth straight opponent ranked in the top ten by TBRB or Ring Magazine and third in four starts ranked by both. Edwards isn’t shying away from tough fights and has continued to seek a unification bout in the division with WBC titlist Julio Cesar Martinez being a notable target in the past.
Alvarado is a threat to any other best laid plans. His is a serious challenge to replace Edwards in the division and garner a strap in Alvarado’s second weight class.
Edwards is just as serious a threat to end Alvarado’s long winning streak.
It’s hard to ask for much more in a prizefight.
This fight does have a little something more.
Jr. flyweight is finally seeming to pick up the steam it’s had possible for years in the wake of Kenshiro Teraji’s unification knockout of Hiroto Kyoguchi. Kenshiro may next face another titlist in Jonathan Gonzalez to keep the ball rolling.
Jr. bantamweight remains one of boxing’s best and most consistent classes with Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez III slated for December, arguably the best fight left in 2022, and a unification clash in the division between Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco set for New Year’s Eve. The winners of those two fights are a natural unification clash for the first half of 2023.
Flyweight sits between those two interesting divisions in a state of flux. Former titlists Junto Nakatani and Kosei Tanaka have moved on and up. Since his loss to Chocolatito earlier this year, Martinez’s attempts at a WBC flyweight title rematch with McWilliams Arroyo have imploded now multiple times, the latest instance coming with an injury to Arroyo that scuttled their meeting on the Estrada-Gonzalez undercard.
Despite the losses to the class, there is also an impending critical arrival.
Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez impressed the boxing world in 2022 by leaping from Jr. flyweight to Jr. bantamweight to knock off two of the division’s biggest aging names, Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, picking up a WBC belt along the way. Rodriguez next got a tougher than expected challenge from Israel Gonzalez and, after hinting at it in the past, has elected to move back down the scale.
Only 22, Rodriguez has time to grow back to Jr. bantamweight and more. For now, Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KO) appears headed toward a clash for the WBO belt Nakatani left behind versus Cristian Gonzalez (15-1, 5 KO). Rodriguez’s burgeoning star power, Edwards’ willingness, and Martinez’s familiarity with audiences in multiple markets provides the potential to add the spark that has been missing at flyweight to get the division into the same bonanza of unification bouts that has hit the sport. The other titlist, Artem Dalakian, has fought just twice since 2019, has nothing officially scheduled yet for 2022, and could use some work too.
In just the last two years, fans have seen unification clashes at 108, 115, 118, 122, 130, 135, 140, 147, 154, 160, 168, and 175 lbs. Flyweight has notably been absent from unification clashes for most of the last fifty years with only Brian Viloria-Hernan Marquez filling the void and Estrada holding onto a unified share of the division’s belts for a few years afterwards. Flyweight can do better.
With the cast of characters assembled and assembling, it just might in 2023. The winner of Edwards-Alvarado may have their part to play. On Friday, they just have to figure out a better man in what looks like a damn good fight.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org