THE BIG INTERVIEW – SUNNY EDWARDS PART 2
By Richard Hubbard
A television debut beckons for Sunny Edwards, with the flyweight soon to be booked in for a first punching appearance on the Boxnation-BT Sport axis. It will be a fitting showcase for the snappy punching 21-year-old who goes about his business with both swagger and style.
It won’t, however, be Edwards’ first exposure to the small screen – that came back in 2009 when the Croydon boy was just entering his teens.
The producers of the Channel 4 documentary ‘Trophy Kids’ homed in on the Edwards household to film a revealing TV expose on parents who devote their very being to the sporting success of their offspring.
In this case study, father Larry had two promising punchers on his hands and the programme made a big play of the fact he had erected a boxing ring in the front garden for some homemade sparring.
Like many of these fly-on-the-wall reality shows, there were tears and tantrums along the way but, if these kids did not succeed, it was not for the want of trying.
The primary focus of the Edwards element of the documentary was Sunny’s older brother Charlie, who is definitely making a good fist of his pro fighting career, having previously been a decorated amateur.
The younger sibling, who was never far from his brother’s side, is coming along nicely too, with six national titles to his name as an amateur and now a 3-0 pro.
Trophy Kids set out to illustrate the extremes, attempting to portray the parents as seeking to live out a personal sporting voyage via their talented teenagers.
It probably only told half the story though, but the younger Edwards boy says the family knew what they were signing up to.
“Yeah, yeah and my dad really did do that,” he recalled with a chuckle. “We flew to Azerbaijan because my brother fought for GB out there and it was put on by the production company.
“It was a good experience and we obviously knew what it was all about, although I was still quite young and wasn’t so aware then.
“I don’t think he came across too bad in it, compared to some of the other ones.
“Without him, me or Charlie would’ve had no chance of getting to this point. It was pretty much on Charlie and I was just attached to it at 12 or 13 before I had won any titles.”
To bring the Trophy Kids story up to date, dad has now taken a back seat in the professional journey of his sons, with Charlie working under the watchful eye of Adam Booth and Sunny having returned to his amateur roots in Sheffield with trainer Grant Smith.
His contribution to their careers and development remains appreciated though and, as his youngest points out, the dedication and enthusiasm extended well beyond his own fighting family.
“The amount of miles he would do,” added Sunny. “He used to drive around ten miles picking up all different boys to take them to the gym three times a week.
“I know he can come across as a bit mad, he always has and always will do, but he is a character.
“We wouldn’t have been where we’ve been without him.”
On turning pro last year, Edwards headed out to Marbella to link up with his brother having signed management terms with Matthew Macklin’s organisation – now titled MTK Global – but it was more a case of needs must than any desire to slap on the factor 30.
His fighting heart remained firmly in Sheffield with his amateur mentor Smith but, before a relatively recent rule change, staying together was not an option.
“Before I turned pro, if I could’ve stayed with my trainer Grant Smith in Sheffield, I would’ve. But, at the time, pro coaches couldn’t also be amateur coaches and he has got a strong squad of ten or 11 good boys.
“I wouldn’t have even asked him to come over to pro and sacrifice the rest of the boys. That wouldn’t have been fair at all and I took it out of his hands.
“Even though, at least two or three times a week, while I was living in Marbella, I was on the phone to him for at least half an hour chatting boxing because there were some things I wasn’t happy about, hence why I’ve come back so quickly.
“As soon as they said amateur coaches could train pros, he got his licence before I even asked him, just in case I ever did.
“I left for Marbella in June and I was back in October before my third professional fight.”
It was after this fight in Tolworth in December that Edwards took the call that would change the course of his fledgling career.
Frank Warren was in the midst of creating a football-style transfer window all of his own after the game-changing development that saw BT Sport enter the boxing arena via a groundbreaking partnership with BoxNation.
‘I’d seen personally through my brother(Charlie) what Hearn and Matchroom offers and it made me more impressed with Frank. It just seems to me like the best place to be.There are so many things that suggest that, for a prospect, Frank Warren is definitely the way to go’
The curiosity of Edwards was piqued.
At the time he was letting his management plot his next moves having initially considered following in his brother’s footsteps. Instead he set about building his boxing CV, but news of the broadcasting nuptials did not go unnoticed.
“I had a brief chat with Eddie (Hearn) as I didn’t have any links with Frank at the time but I sat down and thought if I am going to pay 15 per cent in management fees then I am going to let them manage me.
“It is what they do and if you don’t listen to them then what is the point of them being there?
“Every amateur boxer who has been on GB is looking at the big promoters, but they said they would get me four to six fights in my first year around the country and they gave me the confidence to jump in feet first, learn my trade and then go for a promoter down the line.
“It is literally what they did. I was expecting to go at least 6-0 – hopefully – before going with a promoter, but very soon after my third they approached me before Christmas.
“I got out of the ring in December and was still thinking I had the next couple of fights to go through, then I got a phone call to say there was an offer there from Frank, who is interested in working with me.
“They said they thought it was going to be a massive overhaul of the TV platforms with BT Sport and BoxNation and it is in a really good place.
“I had already seen people signing up for it and I thought then ‘I would be interested in that’, so it was already in my mind.
“I’d seen personally through my brother what Hearn and Matchroom offers and it made me more impressed with Frank.”
What didn’t appeal to Edwards was linking up with a TV promoter and end up not showcasing his talent before a TV audience.
Most broadcasters don’t get their party started until the business end of the bill after 8pm, resulting in numerous prospects being denied the exposure they anticipated.
BoxNation, however, does what it says on the tin and delivers fight after fight, near enough from the first bell on the night.
“It just seems to me like the best place to be. I like to be realistic about my career and how people are going to perceive me. You have top fighters on some of these promotional companies that are scrapping to get a little bit of TV time.
“Top fighters are fighting at five or six o’clock on the bill. Don’t get me wrong, everybody has got to go through that, but you’ve got to think they have only got 12-16 shows a year and, unless they are pay-per-view, they are broadcast after 8pm.
“There are so many things that suggest that, for a prospect, Frank Warren is definitely the way to go.
“Charlie has boxed when the doors haven’t even been opened yet.
“Even if BT starts at 8pm, BoxNation still show nearly all the fights live and why wouldn’t they? They even do that on York Hall shows, start early and show all the fights.
“It gives you a platform and, even watching it back on a TV production, it makes everything 100 per cent better for the boxers.
“I don’t like putting people down, but for me, the sheer amount of shows and sheer quality of production going into those shows will work for me.
“I personally think that MTK work very well with Frank and have a good relationship.”
With Edwards about to get his TV break and brother Charlie soon to fight for the British title at super flyweight – having come up a little short in a world title challenge last year – this fighting family is on a firm footing.
It wasn’t the case, sadly, back in 2015 when the brothers were rocked by their mother Terry suffering a major health scare that she is still battling back from to this day.
It signalled the start of a traumatic and harrowing period for the family, who Edwards now reflects are now increasingly tightly bonded having emerged intact from the devastating experience.
“Two years ago she got diagnosed with cancer and the treatment triggered a tumor in her brain,” he revealed. “She had to undergo major brain operations with a 50 per cent chance of survival, so she was knocked for six.
“You know what though, it has brought my family a lot closer together in some ways and my sister, who is an absolute diamond, looks after her and is her full-time carer and does everything right for her.”
Edwards himself managed to focus on a challenging mission of his own in order to temporarily divert his attention from an incredibly distressing situation.
“It has been hard and when she fell ill it was a month before the ABA title that I won and Grant wanted me to pull out because I didn’t train for two or three weeks.
“He rang me up and said the weigh-in had been moved forward, but my head was still all over the place because she was still touch and go.
“I had ten days from that phone call when I was in London weighing over 57kilos and I had to make 49. I came back, trained three times a day and made the weight. I didn’t have to box for another week and I won that round and then a month later was the quarters, semis and finals over three days at the Echo Arena.
“I think the whole ABAs and the struggle took my mind off it. The next time I saw my mum she had had her operation, was in a better place for it and I had my ABA title that means everything to me and still does. I’ve got it hanging in my room.”
Edwards, like his mother, showed the strength and resolve to win the battle they were encountered with. As if anyone needed reminding, the heartbreaking episode demonstrated how quickly life can change.
“You’ve got to have it. I think my brother at one point struggled with it more than me, but now we are so much stronger.
“We are so lucky because we pretty much said goodbye to her a couple of times. It was so hard to see her going from the Sunday night when she cooked us roast dinner and took me to the train station to go back up to Sheffield to when I came back on the Tuesday night after training because she was in hospital. It changed that quickly.”
Winning fights obviously runs in the family and, given the choice, there is one in particular that Edwards would like to pick in the not too distant future.
“In the next 12 months I would be shocked if I haven’t been fighting for and winning some sort of title. I’ve definitely now got a good platform for it. I would love to box for the Southern Area as soon as they give me the green light.
“There is also my ‘best mate’ Prince Patel, who is also with Frank so that should be easy to make!
“I would love that fight and would snap it up in a heartbeat. He knows that and has gone very quiet on me.
“We’ve got history and go way back. He can have it at whatever weight he wants. I get tweets daily about it and it is one fight I do want – and I want to make that very clear as well.”
You certainly have, Sunny.