2023 was a momentous year for Boxing. Definitely enjoyed traveling to see all the fights around the country. It was such a momentous year; I did not want it to stop. But alas, all good things must end. This would be the final card I attended this year, but it is a great one to end the year. Bam Rodriguez vs Sunny Edwards was a fight I had been long waiting for, and it was great to see it live. I had never been to Arizona either, so it provided a great reason to head over. Warm weather and Boxing are a great combo. I arrived on Friday and was able to catch the weigh-ins. The formal weigh-ins were already completed, and all the fighters made weight. Apparently, Bam took a while to make his way to the scales. So, Sunny returned the favor by making everyone wait for the ceremony weigh-ins. Needless to say, the fans were not pleased and made their voices heard. This was a recurring theme throughout the weekend.
I got to the Desert Diamond Arena early so that I could catch all the fights on the card. The first fight started off with Alberto “Chop Chop” Gonzalez facing off against Alexis Molina. Gonzalez made quick work of Molina, living up to his nickname by chopping Molina down in only two rounds. The next fight was Joe McGrail vs Brandon Marquez. Another quick fight, as McGrail got Marquez out in three rounds. The next fight was a fight I was paying plenty of attention to: Junaid Bostan vs Gordie Russ II. Both are undefeated prospects getting matched against each other early. To make things even better, both parties engaged in a brawl after the Thursday afternoon press conference. Bostan was taunting Russ when they faced off on Friday for the weigh-ins. Constantly telling Russ “Be calm! Breathe!” But now the actual fight began, and they could settle it in the ring. Bostan had a good couple rounds to start off, boxing Russ very well. He was smiling and taunting the whole time. However, in the third round, they exchanged in close range, and Bostan was clipped. The smile left his face, and a look of concern replaced it. Bostan did a respectable job fighting back, but he was hurt badly. Afterwards, Bostan opted to move more while tagging Russ with hard shots occasionally. By the end of the fight, the volume decreased exponentially as Bostan opted to move and throw one hard shot at a time. At the end of eight rounds, the scorecards were read, and Junaid Bostan was declared the victor by UD (79-73 3x). The judges were very generous to Bostan as Russ did enough to win more rounds, but ultimately the right man won. The last fight on the undercard was Arturo Cardenas taking on Carlos Mujica. Cardenas battered Mujica, beating him up and overwhelming him with hard punches over four rounds before the corner decided to stop the fight.
The undercard fights ended early, giving us more than enough wait time in between. The main card started with Peter McGrail taking on Ja’Rico O’Quinn. O’Quinn was one of the fighters I watched in Detroit on the Baumgardner/Linardatou card. He did not look good in his previous fight, and I can see why McGrail picked him as an opponent. McGrail won every second of every round, thoroughly outboxing O’Quinn through four rounds. In the fifth round, everything continued the same, until O’Quinn connected with a right hand out of nowhere that put McGrail’s lights out. McGrail was down and out, as JaRico O’Quinn pulled off the shocking upset. O’Quinn in the post-fight talked about how he did not train at all for this fight, and how he was targeted because he was a cherry. Well, McGrail picked the wrong cherry, and was served a dose of poison for his troubles. Next fight was Galal Yafai taking on Rocco Santomauro. It was a very ho hum fight, with Yafai easily outboxing Santomauro over ten rounds of zero action. Santomauro had nothing for Yafai, and Yafai stayed in first gear. Was the antithesis of a crowd-pleasing fight. The co-main was Murodjon “MJ” Akhmadaliev, coming off his first loss against Marlon Tapales to take on relatively unknown Kevin “Bomba” Gonzalez. Gonzalez certainly did not lack anything in the toughness department. He was hit with a lot of hard shots. In the fifth round, Gonzalez went down from a barrage of punches. He was able to get up and weather the storm, but the onslaught continued. After the sixth round, Gonzalez’s coach warned him he would stop the fight if it kept going on like this. It continued for a couple more rounds until it was stopped in the eighth round after Gonzalez was knocked down again.
Now for the main event: Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez vs Sunny Edwards is upon us. Sunny was getting booed every time he appeared on the jumbotron, and it continued when Sunny walked out to Dreams N Nightmares by Meek Mill. Sunny played the heel role to perfection, and now it is time to see if he can back it up in the ring. The fight started and Sunny was trying to figure out the right distance so he could get in and out on Bam. Bam had the longer reach and could pump out his jab from long range at will. By the end of the second round, there was a noticeable mouse over Sunny’s eye. Sunny did as best as he could to maintain distance while throwing combinations at Bam. But was able to walk Sunny down and light him up with 1-2s, while Sunny did his best to fight back. Halfway through the fight, Sunny realizes he would not be able to move around and counter, as he was clearly down on the cards. So, he made the decision to bite down and fight Bam on the inside, which was the worst-case scenario as it plays into Bam’s strengths. Going into the ninth round, Sunny’s corner wanted to stop the fight, but Sunny pleaded to keep the fight going. Sunny went out in the ninth and kept fighting. But at the end of the round, a sharp straight left dropped Sunny straight to the canvas. Sunny got up, but it was clear he could not see out of his eye and in no way could continue without the risk of serious long-term damage being done. At the end of the round, Sunny’s corner stopped the fight. Bam Rodriguez was declared the winner by TKO and is now the new unified Flyweight champion.
Sunny was taken to the hospital, and therefore not available for comments at the press conference. Bam and his trainer Robert Garcia were there to answer any questions asked. Bam basically said he is moving up to 115 and is open to any big fights up there. He mentioned once again that he was not willing to fight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. He did, however, say he would be extremely interested in fighting Juan Francisco “Gallo” Estrada, who apparently said he was not impressed with Bam’s performance against Sunny. We will see if this fight comes to fruition next year. Either way, it was a great fight and the night belonged to Bam. Wonderful way to end 2023. Here is to 2024 giving us great/exciting fights like this. Until next time…