What Next For Sunny Edwards after first career defeat?

 | December 19 | 

4 mins read

sunny edwards with belt

Sunny Edwards ventured to Glendale, Arizona on Saturday night with his IBF flyweight title and his unbeaten record in tow. He returns to England with his belt and his ‘0’ having been left behind in ‘The Copper State’. Edwards was brutally relieved of both by Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez who now reigns as the unified IBF and WBO kingpin, as well as the consensus number one at his weight.

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Sunny did not disgrace himself on his US debut. In fact, the nine rounds he shared with Rodriguez were among the most absorbing of 2023. Had enterprising scribes not already produced their Fight of the Year lists with the aim of enjoying an early Christmas holiday, Saturday’s fight would surely have figured prominently. 

Edwards eventually had to relent in the ninth round, complaining of impaired vision since the second stanza. It later transpired the deposed champion had broken his orbital bone. The same injury caused Daniel Dubois to withdraw against Joe Joyce in their 2020 battle.

The severity of the injury means we will not be seeing Sunny for a little while. But what does the future of ‘Showtime’ look like when he does re-emerge?

The rematch with ‘Bam’ holds an obvious appeal. After all, the two flyweights just blessed us with nine rounds of incredible action. Why not gift us with what would be a hotly-anticipated sequel? The proposition is enticing, but Edwards might do well to resist a Rodriguez redux in his first fight back.

What Edwards has proven is that he deserves a big stage. For too long, the Londoner has been forced to move in the shadows. He has bounced around television networks, promoters and countries. Sunny’s world-class skills have been left to rot in venues unworthy of staging them. With the added profile of a thrilling bout with ‘Bam’, Sunny’s ring return should be treated like the big fight it will be.

A big fight necessitates a big opponent, though Matchroom Boxing, who handle Edwards, might preach some caution here. His profile is such that people will not accept a soft touch, particularly if ‘Showtime’ is in the headline slot he deserves as a former world champion. But the orbital bone recovery will require a somewhat winnable fight if Sunny is to get back on track.

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WBC International champion Galal Yafai would be an intriguing all-British clash. The Olympic gold medalist has moved quickly in the pro ranks. Sunny would have the experience edge in the pros, given Yafai’s 6-0 record. At 31 the latter is looking to climb the mountain in short order and he’ll view the scalp of ex-champ Edwards as an attractive fight.

Former WBC boss Cristofer Rosales is world-ranked and there’s some marketable history there. Sunny’s brother, Charlie Edwards, outpointed Rosales for his world title in 2018. The Nicaraguan campaigner seeking revenge on Charlie’s younger sibling would make for a fun talking point in the build-up. With six defeats on his record, Rosales would also be a softer landing than other potential opponents for Sunny.

Nicaragua could also offer a familiar foe for Edwards. Felix Alvarado, who lost a decision for Sunny’s old IBF belt in 2022, has won since and is in the world ratings. Perhaps a rematch against a name opponent who he knows he can beat can revive Edwards’ ambitions?

Beyond ‘Bam’, the toughest option has to be Julio Cesar Martinez. Another former foe of Charlie, their fight was declared a no-contest when Martinez hit the downed Brit on the ground. ‘El Rey’ has only lost one of 24 fights, a brave move up to super flyweight where he came up short to the all-time great Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.

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A fight with Edwards would sell tickets, with Martinez being one of the biggest stars at the weight. The prospect of clinching another world title at the first time of asking must be tempting. But the stern test Martinez provides might render him the second fight back rather than the first.

Great champions learn to file away a defeat and move on. Edwards can still excel, he has shown that through some of the fine victories on his resume. ‘Bam’ might be an opportunity that comes again or perhaps he will sit inconveniently on Sunny’s record as the man he couldn’t quite conquer. But whether the road back is through Rodriguez or around him, Edwards can become a world champion again. The comeback starts now.

 

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