Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez-Sunny Edwards fight week diary: Day Four

On the way into the Desert Diamond Arena on Saturday evening ProBox TV passed countless supporters of the San Francisco 49ers, who on Sunday were scheduled to play the Arizona Cardinals.

It was almost disheartening that so few – judging by the absence of the bright red 49ers shirts that made it so easy to identify them – had any interest in watching Jesse Rodriguez-Sunny Edwards, which represented one of the most appealing fights of 2023. 

Black curtains were in place in the arena to mask the upper tier and other empty seats, and while that will long remain the reality for fighters in the lighter weight divisions, when there were so many sports fans in town with a free evening and the capacity to host a bigger crowd there was little doubting that somewhere a trick had been missed.

It regardless didn’t prevent a fine atmosphere and the existence of tension in the air as the main event neared (Edwards was booed every time he was shown in his changing room; Rodriguez passionately cheered). 

By then, a video of Eddie Hearn had been played on several occasions, on which he spoke of the Matchroom-branded t-shirts that were going to be “shot” into the crowd, and that if someone succeeded in catching the t-shirt signed by him they would win a further prize that ProBox TV refused to stay zoned in for long enough to learn of. For reasons that remain unclear there was a disproportionate level of excitement at the prospect of catching even a non-signed t-shirt, but the Desert Diamond Arena is in a country that so recently voted to be its leader Donald Trump.

Edwards could again be seen, from his dressing room, when the pre-fight national anthems were being sung – in that moment it was difficult to think of another fighter more in love with his career and everything it entails.

It was similarly difficult to think of a more arrogant fighter when, with a record of 20-0, he walked to the ring to the theme tune to The Matrix, wearing a tracksuit emblazoned with “21-0”, and took his time revelling in the atmosphere and the occasion – and absorbing the energy he no doubt could feel. It’s a shame that by then David Diamante had introduced him as from Sheffield – Sheffield and Croydon, where Edwards is actually from, are no closer together than the world (which is spherical) is to having “four corners”, as Diamante repeatedly and tediously insists on saying. 

When Hearn and Galal Yafai – a likely future opponent for Edwards – were making their way from ringside after having watched Rodriguez produce one of the performances of the year, ProBox TV overheard Hearn, saying to his fighter, “Fair play to Sunny”, which just about captured what, after first admiring what they had just seen Rodriguez do, was on the minds of everyone else. He’d showed considerable courage to trade with a fighter he knew he ought not risk trading with, and then to continue fighting after the point had come when he knew he was almost certain to lose. 

After such a show of heart it is difficult not to question how much Rodriguez might have taken from him, physically – Edwards has already revealed he suffered a medial orbital fracture to his left eye. Even more relevant, regardless, may be the damage to his psyche. He had carried an air of invincibility like few active fighters, and he’ll never truly get that back.