Interview by Declan Warrington
BN: You recently learned that your girlfriend Rebecca is expecting a daughter…
JR: We found out about four months ago, so we’ve known for some time. We’re happy; we’re excited, and we can’t wait until our baby girl’s finally here. The fight was announced in June and then we found out after that.
I know I have someone to take care of now – a little baby girl – so I been a lot more motivated. I know this fight will do a lot for my family; a lot for my daughter.
This is a huge fight – a fight that we want. This is what boxing needs. Baby or not, I would have taken this fight.
I got here [to Oxnard, California] early October and I been here training since, so I been away from home. It is hard. I do miss her [Rebecca]. I miss [my home city] San Antonio in general. But it’s part of the sacrifices that we have to do as boxers; to provide for our families. It’ll all pay off in the end.
BN: How good is Sunny Edwards?
JR: He’s a great fighter. He’s undefeated for a reason; he’s a champion for a reason, so December 16 is going to be an exciting fight. But Sunny hasn’t seen a fighter like me – pressure; footwork – so it’s going to be something new to him. He’s going to have his hands full.
He’s good at countering; moving; trying to get in his opponent’s head. But he hasn’t seen somebody like me. He likes to stay on the ropes; stay in the pocket a little too long. But for this fight he’s gonna approach it a little bit different. He won’t do that with me, because he knows that’s where he don’t wanna be. But me and Robert [Garcia, my trainer] have been working on things to capitalise on that.
He’s gonna try to move – try and avoid the ropes. I’m sure that’s going to be his game plan – not to stay in the pocket or be on the ropes – but with pressure like mine he won’t be able to move for 12 rounds, like he does with his past opponents. I’m a different fighter. I have the footwork, and the pressure – that’s something he hasn’t seen before. We’re ready, man, and we’re excited.
BN: You spent a lot of time around him to help promote this fight…
JR: Before that it was social media. He would tweet me a lot, trying to get in my head or get a response from me, but that’s not the kind of fighter I am; not the kind of person I am. I just keep everything calm and collected. I would see his tweets and just ignore him, and then finally we met in person a couple of months ago in Orlando, and he approached me very differently – very respectful – so that kinda caught me by surprise. Why he did that, I’m not sure.
I didn’t hate him or like him. I had no feelings towards him. Then when we met he was real friendly, but that don’t change anything – I respect the guy, but I’m not all friendly with him either. I’m going into this fight just like I’d never met him. He saw that he couldn’t get to me on social media so there was really no point trying in person.
[It was] about a week [together]. We did a media tour. We went to Orlando and then we went to London, so I was with him for about a week. It was a cool experience – part of the game. I approached him like I normally do. He approached me differently to social media so that says a lot right there. Who is he? Is he a trash talker or a genuine person? When we get in the ring is all that matters – all the build-up’s out the window. Sunny Edwards will be in front of me. I have nothing bad about to say him – I respect him.
What you saw on video – us playing ping pong, or us hitting the bag – that’s how it was all week. Nothing changed. Everything was the same. We had a face off in London, but that’s probably the most I talked to him out of the whole week – typical talk about the fight; typical build-up. I don’t care to [get to know opponents]. I’m not going to go and start a conversation with him. I’m going to fight him, so there’s really no reason for that.
BN: How aware are flyweights of how rare are the opportunities to earn life-changing money?
JR: Me and Sonny are able to bring attention to the lower weight classes. This is what the lower weight divisions need and I’m glad to be a part of it. This is the best fight in the lower weight divisions in general. There’s a lot more eyes on this fight because of the characters we are – Sonny talking trash – so people pay attention to that; pay attention to the fight. This is a great fight.
I didn’t know about him until he mentioned my name, after his fight with [last year, Felix] Alvarado. That’s when I started realising who he was – that’s when I started paying attention. [He impressed me] right off the bat – he’s a great fighter.
Flyweights don’t get paid as much, so it’s harder, being a flyweight. I was trying to get a fight for a while – I got my shot at [last year, Carlos] Cuadras and ever since then my life has changed and I got bigger fights like this. I just got blessed with the opportunity to fight Cuadras and ever since then, life has been different. Being recognised in San Antonio; being recognised on the boxing scene. A lot more people talk about me and my fights – that fight with Cuadras really changed it.
BN: There’s been talk of the winner fighting the great Roman Gonzalez…
JR: Ever since I won my title they wanted me to fight him but [our co-promoter] Mr [Akihiko] Honda wouldn’t let that happen. Me and “Chocolatito” have respect between each other and that’s a hard fight that would be made – I don’t think it’d ever happen. The mutual respect is there. Mr Honda – we’re both backed up by Tieken Promotions – so that’s a hard fight to make. A sparring session would be cool, but fighting? Nah. I’d love to spar him though.
He still has a lot left in the tank for sure – the last [Juan Francisco] Estrada fight [last year] he started a little slow but then he picked it up towards the end. He wasn’t able to pull it off but he still has a lot left in the tank.