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Sunny Edwards goes on the road

Sunny Edwards
Sunny Edwards takes his skills to Dubai and Jayson Mama this Saturday, writes Elliot Worsell

IT seems almost unfortunate that flyweight Sunny Edwards, one of the more talented and interesting characters on the British scene right now, follows his belt-winning masterpiece against Moruti Mthalane in April with a relatively low-key defence against an unknown Filipino by the name of Jayson Mama this Saturday (December 11) in Dubai (Coca-Cola Arena) of all places.

Out of nowhere Edwards has, during the past 12 months, emerged as an unlikely and unconventional young star of the sport in this country and plays the game – that is, the social media game – as well as anyone. In that world, he is outspoken, he is honest, and he has, for better or worse, created his own persona of sorts. He swims against the tide and has in recent times even managed to bob to the top, arriving as the voice of the people; a voice grating to the ears of those who would rather not hear what he has to say.

The danger now, of course, is that Edwards, 16-0 (4) and ranked No.2 in the world, becomes one of these boxers so caught up in his self-appointed role as chief pursuer of justice and social media entertainer that he loses sight of his real job and the task at hand. That seems unlikely given the Croydon youngster’s single-minded mentality but it remains a danger nonetheless, with any shift in pre-fight focus enough to derail men less dedicated.

On the subject of derailment, Saturday’s opponent, Jayson Mama, is a potential banana skin due solely to the expectation now on Edwards. At 24, Mama has slipped under the radar, both in terms of his career to date and his role in this particular fight, but must be respected the same way Moruti Mthalane, Edwards’ last opponent, was before then being roundly disrespected by Edwards through each of the 12 rounds they shared.

Easier said than done. Whereas Mthalane garnered respect for his lengthy reign as a belt-holder, Mama, in contrast, brings a record of 16-0 (9) comprising few wins of note. He has, in actual fact, spent the majority of his career building this record in his native Philippines – venturing only as far as Beijing and Macao – and has up to now feasted primarily on boxers with losing records. Worst of all, in the past two years he has beaten just two men, Romshane Sarguilla and Reymark Taday, both of whom had losing records, which, of course, makes the idea of him now getting a title shot of any description perplexing to say the least. (Even more bizarrely, Jama actually stepped aside to allow Edwards to get to Mthalane first, back in April.)

Perhaps a couple of 2019 wins against Teeraphong Utaida and Ekkawit Songnui did the trick. Those are clearly the best scalps on Mama’s record to date, with both opponents somewhat known and both winning more than they lose, albeit at lower weights. Even so, neither of those results indicate Mama is deserving of his opportunity and neither suggest Edwards’ first challenger will be anything other than the latest flyweight Edwards outboxes with ease over the 12-round distance.

It is, in the end, no fault of either Edwards or Mama that fights like this exist in boxing’s lower weight classes. Instead, it is simply an issue of size, or lack thereof. These ‘world title’ fights, after all, have historically taken place due to a lack of genuine competition in the lower weight classes, which, when combined with the laughable amount of titles nowadays available, make them world title fights in name only.

That is not to say Sunny Edwards’ skills fall short of world class, nor that his IBF title win against Mthalane was inauthentic. All it means is that Edwards, for as long as he flourishes as a flyweight, is destined to come up against opponents either unknown or out of their depth, or both. It is, sadly, just the way of things where so many rankings exist and, in truth, there’s very little Edwards or anyone else can do about it.

An interesting fight at bantamweight between Filipino puncher John Riel Casimero and Liverpool’s Paul Butler, 33-2 (15) was also due to take place in Dubai this Saturday on the bill promoted by newbies Probellum.

But Casimero was unable to make the weigh in, reportedly he was taken into hospital the night before, and Joseph Agbeko stepped in as a replacement.

In more undercard action, Donnie Nietes, another Filipino and another MTK-managed boxer (like Edwards and Butler), fights Norbelto Jiminez of the Dominican Republic at super-flyweight. Nietes, 43-1-5 (23), is now 39 years old and a former titleholder at strawweight, light-flyweight and flyweight, while Jiminez, 30-9-5 (16), is best remembered for losing a 12-round decision against Britain’s Khalid Yafai in 2019.

The full event will be available from 4pm GMT on Premier Sports 2 and BoxNation while FreeSports will join the coverage at 5.30pm GMT for the main events, which will be available to watch for free.

The Verdict Another bill full of MTK fighters lands in Dubai.

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