Rodriguez breaks down and stops Edwards to prove flyweight supremacy

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez broke down and stopped Sunny Edwards in nine rounds in the fight to determine the world’s finest flyweight.

Edwards, who had been defending his IBF title at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, was rescued by his corner at the conclusion of the ninth round having only just survived the most powerful of left hooks.

Rodriguez, the reigning WBO champion, had, until that point, consistently beaten him up. Edwards was by then bleeding from by both eyes, and had little choice but to fight his rival’s fight – which meant trading with the bigger, stronger and younger fighter.

What had been considered the most competitive of fights, between the division’s two leading fighters, became largely one-sided from as early as the second round. Rodriguez launched a strong, straight right hand, and while Edwards absorbed it he soon looked unsettled by his opponent’s power and marked up under his left eye. 

He was sufficiently hurt by a left hand in the third and forced to hold on, and while he had greater success by switching to a southpaw stance he wasn’t landing with the same authority as Rodriguez – a sign that Rodriguez’s power had already made him hesitant. 

Edwards’ greatest chance came in proving himself the more intelligent, mobile and awkward fighter, but Rodriguez’s educated pressure and footwork – not unlike Gennady Golovkin in his middleweight prime – meant that he regularly dictated the pace and range at which they fought.

When in the fifth the 27-year-old Edwards landed an eye-catching right hand he still had little cause for encouragement, because of the punishment – a right to the chin and punches to the body that were slowing him down – he received. 

The feeling that he was already running out of time and ideas was enhanced in the sixth when he admirably attempted to stand his ground. In a terrific round he traded with Rodriguez – who was warned after deliberately punching low – but at the cost of him starting to bleed more heavily from by his right eye.

In the seventh Edwards swung and fell considerably short with an uncharacteristically wild left hook and, as Rodriguez started to increasingly plant his feet and land with more power, the stoppage neared. Rodriguez had already knocked out Edwards’ gumshield when a left hook landed so concussively that one of Edwards’ legs gave way from underneath him and he struggled to return to his feet. 

That it was the end of the round meant that Rodriguez, 23, didn’t stop him immediately afterwards, but Edwards’ trainer Grant Smith made the right call to signal that he was withdrawing his fighter before the start of the 10th round. 

Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan had by then stopped Kevin Gonzalez in eight rounds. He had already dropped him twice in the sixth – the first time via a left hand; the second via exhaustion – when the Mexican perhaps should have been rescued by his corner. 

A left uppercut dropped Gonzalez again in the eighth, and when he returned to his feet and was struggling to defend himself, the referee Mark Calo-oy intervened. 

The Olympic gold medallist Galal Yafai earlier laboured to victory over 10 rounds in his sixth professional fight, against Rocco Santomauro of the US. He began impressively, by timing and picking his punches with authority and accuracy, but lost his rhythm during the middle rounds, started to get caught, and never recovered it – and to the extent that he refused to celebrate when he was awarded victory via scores of 98-93, 97-93 and and 99-91.

There was also a defeat for the super bantamweight Peter McGrail, on the occasion of his ninth professional fight. He had built a commanding lead by dropping Ja'Rico O'Quinn in the second and fourth rounds and was controlling the fifth when a right hook against the momentum of the fight dropped him sufficiently heavily he was counted out and took a worryingly long time to return to his feet.