Can Muhammad Waseem give Sunny Edwards his toughest fight yet?
Sunny Edwards and Regis Prograis are the stars of the latest curious card to take place in Dubai, writes Matt Christie
SUNNY EDWARDS is one of the best of all fighters in Britain but he remains largely unknown to anyone outside the boxing bubble. After turning in one of the best performances by any fighter in 2021, when he dominated Moruti Mthalane, it’s shame he’s not fighting at home on a major network and showcasing his skills to the wider public. Certainly, he has the talent and personality to become a household name in Britain.
Whether or not that will change following a deal struck between Eurosport and Probellum (the promotional group who, we’re told, are not MTK in disguise but nonetheless represent an awful lot of their fighters, including Edwards), only time will tell. Even so, for now, he is flying under the radar.
There are factors beyond Sunny’s admirable skillset to consider, however. He is unashamedly an advocate of Daniel Kinahan (the advisor who is in the midst of a new PR campaign after the last one ended with a Panorama documentary about mobsters in boxing). Though major broadcasters and promoters seem to be increasingly happy to turn a blind eye to most things, Edwards’ desire to out a bloke reportedly linked to numerous drug crimes (but without a single conviction) as a good guy might be one they’re thinking twice about.
It would be easy to criticise Edwards for that, particularly from the outside looking in. But it’s safe to assume he’s earning good money and that, frankly, is hard to condemn any boxer for. At Boxing News, it’s a difficult balancing act; retaining the moral high ground while reporting on a business that, as Kinahan’s ginormous behind-the-scenes influence proves, is notoriously devoid of the same values.
So we will watch from afar as Edwards, who we rank as the No. 2 flyweight in the world, goes to work. On Saturday (March 19) he takes on seven-ranked Muhammad Waseem while defending a sanctioning body title at the Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Dubai.
Pakistan’s Waseem is 12-1 (8), has been a professional since 2015 and was an excellent amateur. Testament to that is his first professional contest, which was scheduled for 10 rounds, and he won his fourth and fifth contests via 12-round decisions over experienced opponents. There are noteworthy victories on his ledger: In 2016 he beat 17-0 Giemel Magramo after 12 gruelling sessions; gnarled perennial contender Ganigan López (36-10) was outpointed over eight in 2019; and he defeated the fleet of foot Rober Barrera (23-3) on a 12-round points decision in November 2021.
However, his biggest fight – and only loss – came against the aforementioned Mthalane, who recovered from an 11th-round knockdown to nick a close decision back in 2018 in a contest for the vacant IBF strap that is on the line here.
Waseem, 33, is a clever and technically sound pressure fighter who will look to cut off the ring and raid Edwards with his chopping combinations. Quick of hand and foot, and the owner of an excellent jab, Muhammad might turn out to be the toughest opponent of Edwards’ career to date.
But the feeling is that Sunny, an exquisite counter-puncher with a spotless 17-0 (4) record, will emerge from some tough early rounds and have his opponent’s measure by the halfway mark. And by the end, he should be comfortably ahead on the cards after impressive dominance down the stretch.
The undercard features one of the most bizarre bouts of the year. The brilliant Regis Prograis (ranked No. 2 contender at super-lightweight) takes on Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna, 22-2-1 (6), in a scheduled 12-round bout in the super-lightweight class.
McKenna, 32, is a tenacious and talented southpaw but he lost his two biggest bouts to domestic rivals Jack Catterall in 2018 and Ohara Davies in 2020, both via close 10-round decisions. In contrast, Prograis, 26-1 (22), has defeated the likes of Joel Díaz Jnr, a still useful Julius Indongo, Juan Jose Velasco, Terry Flanagan, Kiryl Relikh and Ivan Redkach. His only loss came in an exceptionally close 12-round encounter with Josh Taylor in 2019.
Also a leftie, the 5ft 8ins Prograis will concede five inches in height. McKenna generally uses his dimensions well but both Catterall, who scored two knockdowns, and Davies had success against the Northern Irishman on the inside. Prograis is highly-skilled and an adept in-fighter, knocking the stuffing out of taller fellow southpaws like Indongo, Flanagan, Redkach and having several moments of success against Taylor.
At 33, there has to be a question mark over how much Prograis has left but it would be a huge upset if McKenna pulled this off. The Houston-based favourite uses his lead hand very well and that will be the key to victory. Expect the big-punching Prograis to become the first to stop McKenna.
The Verdict This might be a difficult night for Edwards.