Eventually, youth is served. Both Sunny Edwards and Jesse Rodriguez have done their part to get it served in recent vintage. 

Edwards won his flyweight belt by knocking off one of the flyweight stalwarts of the last decade and change. When Edwards knocked off Moruti Mthalane in 2021, it was Mthalane’s first loss since suffering a cut stoppage versus Nonito Donaire in 2008. He’s defended four times since and called for a chance to face other titlists all along.

His chance has arrived.

Rodriguez made a splash in 2022 with two impressive wins over significant veterans. Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made up half of the memorable “hardcore four” who made for a golden era at junior bantamweight. They also made for a launching pad for the young fighter nicknamed “Bam.”

Edwards and Rodriguez aren’t doing business with older men this time around. On Saturday (DAZN, 8 PM EST), they will stare across at another young, hungry fighter with a title around their waist and the guts to put it on the line.  

Let’s get into it. 

Stats and Stakes

Sunny Edwards

Age: 27

Titles: IBF Flyweight (2021-Present, 4 Defenses)

Previous Titles: None

Height: 5’3   

Weight: 111 ½ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox/Southpaw

Hails from: Croydon, London, United Kingdom 

Record: 20-0, 4 KO

Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring), #2 (BoxRec, ESPN)

Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0

Last Five Opponents: 120-5 (.960)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB/Ring Rated Foes: Moruti Mthalane UD12; Jayson Mama UD12; Muhammad Waseem UD12; Felix Alvarado UD12

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None


Jesse Rodriguez  

Age: 23

Current Title: WBO Flyweight (2023-Present, 1st Defense)

Previous Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2022, 2 Defenses)*

Height: 5’4  

Weight: 111 ½ lbs.

Stance: Southpaw

Hails from: San Antonio, Texas

Record: 18-0, 11 KO

Press Rankings: #1 (ESPN, BoxRec), #4 (TBRB, Ring)

Record in Major Title Fights: 1-0 (4-0, 1 KO including WBC non-Franchise title fights) 

Last Five Opponents: 150-18-4 (.884)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Carlos Cuadras UD12; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai TKO8

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None

*Rodriguez held a WBC title at 115 pounds while the WBC Franchise designation resided with Juan Francisco Estrada. There can be debate as to who the WBC recognized as primary titlist. 

The Pick: Of the two, Edwards might be slightly quicker of hand and he’s going to need every bit of that speed to overcome a sizable difference in reach. Edwards measures at 60 inches. Rodriguez is longer at 67. The way the southpaw from Texas applies that reach will be fraught with danger. Rodriguez is fundamentally sound with excellent balance and footwork, able to work from angles to find the body and use his jab to set up a thudding straight left. Rodriguez also has a nasty uppercut, potentially dangerous for an Edwards who can sometimes find himself off balance after stepping in with combinations. 

For Edwards to win, he will have to use a volume attack to pepper Rodriguez in combination and limit return fire at the end of exchanges. Rodriguez is the bigger hitter and is fighting in his home country. Edwards may have to really make his work stand out to snare close rounds. Edwards can do it. He’s shown considerable mental toughness and can put on displays of eye-catching defense while antagonizing foes with the sort of attacks that are hard to ignore.

The thinking here though is Rodriguez is naturally a little bigger and a little more rounded as a professional. He can box and punch and, at 23, is still coming into his own. In his two biggest fights, he rose to the occasion. He hasn’t been as impressive in two fights since but those fights weren’t as big. The lights are bright this weekend. Rodriguez will be too. The pick is Rodriguez by decision in a fight where he is sometimes outworked but his work is landing harder and more efficiently in seven rounds or more.       

Rold Picks 2023: 39-14

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 roldboxing@hotmail.com