Interview by Declan Warrington

BN: How has learning he’ll soon be a parent affected Jesse Rodriguez?

RG: When somebody’s expecting their first baby, it does change the way they think. His mentality has changed; he’s a little bit more focused and serious about life itself; it makes a big change on any human being.

There’s situations where a fighter thinks a little more about risking his health and life in the ring; where fighters hold back a little when they start having a family. It’s something that could work both ways. We won’t see until fight night, but from what it looks like now in training camp and showing us the hunger that he has during sparring, it looks like it’s motivated him in a positive way, where he’ll try even harder. He’s been in camp for almost three months. Some fighters – maybe they’d come to camp a little bit later, or train at home for a few weeks, having a girlfriend that’s pregnant and wanting to be with her. But no, he’s decided to get here [Oxnard, California] for September, and has been focused. That says a lot.

Talent-wise he’s up there among the best [I’ve trained]. I never include my brother Mikey because he’s my brother and I don’t like to put him at number one – of course you’ll pick your brother – but Mikey’s so smart, very technical, and knew when to connect. Skills-wise it’s between “Bam” and Nonito Donaire [as number one]. Nonito Donaire was great – he had some great talent.

BN: How good is Sunny Edwards?

RG: Great fighter. Great fighter. Very talented; very difficult; fast. It’s a real challenge for us. It’s going to be a great fight.

What we’re seeing on social media and what he says in interviews – he’s good for boxing. He’s already a champion who’s defended his title a few times. He backs up what he says, which is good. I’m happy we’re facing him; he’s the one who says more about the way he feels; the way boxing is.

He’s gonna listen and he’s gonna fight smart and he’s gonna box [and avoid the ropes]. He’s gonna try and use his feet to move around; we’re gonna have our moments too, but he’s going to have his moments. It’s going to be a fight where, round by round, we’re going to figure out little things and he’s going to do the same with his corner. That’s what makes this such an interesting fight. It’s maybe the best fight of the lower weight classes of the year. They deserve a lot of credit for accepting the fight; Sunny for even coming to the country and proving himself. That’s what a real warrior – a real fighter – does.

I let [Rodriguez’s] father go [on the press tour] instead of me because the dad wanted to spend time with his son – I had a lot of work anyways – he was a little surprised because he tells me what we’ve seen on social media, [and] it was totally the opposite. [Edwards] was very friendly; they played a few games together. It was very respectful. That tells you he’s a good person, and says what he says to sell a fight. Smaller weights need a fight like this.

Guys like Chocolatito [Roman Gonzalez]; [Carlos] Cuadras; [McWilliams] Arroyo; [Srisaket Sor] Rungvisai made a change. They forced these kids to do the same thing. It’s something they started – they fight each other – and the younger generation needs to continue that so the boxing world keeps those weight classes in mind.

BN: As his former trainer, how risky do you consider Anthony Joshua’s fight with Otto Wallin?

RG: One thing about Anthony is he could struggle at looking good, like he has in the past couple of fights, where there’s a little holding back – but he gets the work done. His last fight [against Robert Helenius in August] he had a really nice knockout, where maybe earlier people were saying, ‘He’s afraid’. In the end, he got the work done.

He’s an athlete; he’s a very, very talented fighter – probably the most talented in the heavyweight division. People question his heart; his mentality; his problems. But, it could take four, five, six rounds – he’ll get the work done. One punch could change everything around.

He knows what’s next. He knows they’re both fighting on the same card – [Deontay] Wilder. Most possibly they’ll fight each other next. So he’s gonna be ready. I actually think he’s going to impress – he’s going to impress to a point where people actually think Anthony Joshua could beat Wilder. I think he could.

There will be plenty of time to prepare [for Wilder, regardless of Wallin being a southpaw]. He just needs to get this fight out of the way, and I think Anthony knows – that’s why I believe he’s going to perform. He’s going to look good and prove everybody that talks negative about him wrong. It’s going to show the world that he belongs up there with the best. I truly believe Anthony could beat Wilder. Wilder has great power, but, besides that it could even be an easy fight for Anthony.

With Wilder, we’ve seen a few of his performances, and he hasn’t looked very well – especially the last fight against Tyson Fury [in 2021]. If he lands he could hurt Anthony and maybe knock him out, but when it comes to skills, to footwork, I put Anthony way ahead, so I don’t see why people have Wilder so high, thinking he’s gonna beat Anthony so easy. Anthony’s got better skills; he’s a complete athlete, and when it comes to that fight he’s going to be at his best. He’s gonna prove a lot of people wrong.

BN: What do you think of him being guided by Ben Davison, and not Derrick James, for this fight?

RG: Honestly, I don’t think there’s any trainer in the world that’s gonna make a big difference. Anthony’s already an athlete; he’s a fighter that’s been fighting for quite a while. Can somebody change his style? I don’t think so. He’s himself. It doesn’t matter who he’s training with. Switch the story around – Ryan Garcia [against Oscar Duarte]. I didn’t see much of a difference in his last fight. He did things I don’t think Derrick James is teaching him. He was dropping his right hand every time he threw his left. When you already have those types of fighters there’s not much to teach.

Sometimes it’s better for somebody to work with them in a positive way mentally. Maybe Davison is the right guy to do that. Any trainer being strict and doing their job will have Anthony in great shape – and that’s what he needs. Most of the people around him are “Yes” men. It’s very normal when you have a superstar. Derrick James did a good job – he’s a great trainer.

BN…you think he’s the most talented heavyweight in the world?

RG: I can’t say he’s more talented than [Oleksandr] Usyk because Usyk’s coming from the smaller weight classes. He’s fast; got really good footwork; good angles. But he’s too small. I’d love to see him beat [Tyson] Fury up, because I was a little disappointed in Fury for what he did in his last fight [against Francis Ngannou]. He disrespected boxing – I don’t think he even trained for that fight. But if Fury’s in shape, he’s a very dangerous fighter. But, skills-wise? Anthony Joshua’s much more skilled. Fury’s not as talented, but he’s a better fighter, because he knows how to use his body; he knows how to hold; how to push. Even his gloves – he has them loose. He’s a complete fighter. Anthony Joshua won’t do stuff like that – he’s too fair. Too honest with himself. “I can’t do that. I don’t want to do that.” Man, when you’re in trouble, you gotta learn to hit your opponent with a low blow so you get a five-minute break. Fury knows all that. He uses his weight to tire out his opponents. That’s what he’ll do with Usyk – use his body; his weight. If Fury’s in great shape I can see him beating Usyk.