BRITISH super-flyweight champion Charlie Edwards returns to the ring on Saturday (February 3) at the O2 Arena in London and is hoping that a win will kickstart a better year for him after a disappointing 2017.
Edwards, 11-1, with 4 KOs, only fought twice last year, winning every round for the British title last April against Iain Butcher, who also failed the weight for the clash, and then picked up a routine points victory over Craig Derbyshire, however the 24-year-old was left dissatisfied due to his inactivity.
He is determined to use the disappointment from last year as a catalyst which he believes will propel him into big fights in the super-flyweight division.
Edwards, a former European bronze medallist in the amateurs, has fully focused his attention on an all domestic clash against the WBA champion Kal Yafai, who has so far made two defences of the belt he won in December 2016.
He told Boxing News, “I’m looking to start 2018 in a positive fashion, as 2017 wasn’t particularly great for me. I finished the year as the British champion, which is a great accolade to have, but I wasn’t anywhere near as active as I should have been.
“But 2018 will be my year and I will be fighting for a world title this year, I have no doubt about that. I’ll get the win on Saturday and then I want an opportunity at Kal Yafai’s WBA belt. We can get it made right away, absolutely no problem. He’s turned down chances to fight in the US, whilst Adam Booth and Eddie Hearn both want it to happen, so we’re just waiting for him.
“Everyone will know who I am, after I’ve beaten him. Adam has total faith in my ability to beat him and it’s well known that he wouldn’t be pushing me towards that fight if he didn’t have belief that I could beat him.”
As well as placing his faith in Adam Booth, the revered UK trainer, Edwards knows Yafai very well from their days up in Sheffield, when both were a part of the GB amateur squad.
He admits that his potential Birmingham rival used to get the better of him during their earlier sparring sessions, but Edwards insisted that by the end of their time with each other on the squad that it was he that was the better man in those spars. Edwards also claims that he will get better sparring than ever in Booth’s gym and that if he were to meet Yafai on the big stage, the result wouldn’t be in doubt.
“My confidence is based on the sparring we used to do when we were both a part of Team GB. I’ve done hundreds of rounds with him and when I was 17 he used to beat me up, dropping me with body shots. But, the older I get and towards the end of his time there, I was getting on top, frustrating him and I’m ready to get my revenge on him. I’ll beat him and then it’s all about making sure I’m financially secure,” Edwards said. “I’ve got some of the best available sparring partners in the gym with me, so I’ll be incredibly prepared for the fight with him. If you want to spar and you’re in the lighter weights, you can do no better than coming to our gym, as it is flying.
“We’ve got Ryan Burnett, who has two world titles at bantamweight, a top prospect in Lucien Reid and now Michael Conlan has joined up with us. He’s beaten Yafai as well, so I can pick his brain and put together the game-plan to beat Kal and announce myself on the big stage.”
Despite his inactivity in 2017, Edwards is adamant that the time away from in-ring action has only made his relationship with trainer Booth grow and he is primed to make a run at the big names at 115lbs this year. “I want to put on a good performance and entertain the people who will be coming to the event. They are bringing over a Nicaraguan, who are always tough, so it will be a test, which is intriguing to me. This is a perfect chance for me to showcase my skills,” he said. “I’m settled as a pro now and in my last meaningful fight, I won every round with ease to become British champion. In 2018 I will show what vast improvements I have made and be much more active than I was in 2017. I may not have had many fights last year, but I was working hard in the gym, so I can’t wait to show what I can do. The time for talking is over.
“Adam Booth really is the “Dark Lord”. He’s got so much wisdom and knowledge of this sport and when he tells you to do something and then it works immediately when you put it into practice, it really is brilliant. I would never pick my own decision over his in boxing and I’m almost like a remote control and he has programmed me to perform at a high level. He’s a great mentor not just in boxing, but in my outside life as well.”
The former amateur standout has found out the hard way that activity is key to maintaining momentum. But he also adds that the loss he suffered to John Riel Casimero, when he challenged for the IBF flyweight title back in September 2016, will also prove to be a key factor in his development.
Edwards is insistent that he has no intention of padding out his record with routine victories and that he wants real challenges to demonstrate why he deserves to be considered amongst the top fighters at super-flyweight.
With regular sparring against the likes of WBA and IBF bantamweight king Ryan Burnett, he is confident he is well placed to make a real charge to the top in 2018. He also added that his younger brother Sunny will not be far behind him and that he is certain that Sunny would get the better of Paddy Barnes, whom he was recently embroiled in a twitter spat with, if they ever clashed in the ring.
“The hardest thing to do in boxing is to maintain your momentum. I was down after I lost my world title fight, as I couldn’t do what I set out to do. It’s been slow since for me, but everything happens for a reason and I’m going to show all the people that doubted me that I’m a different fighter since I lost to Casimero,” he said.
“After all what’s the worst that can happen in there? I’ve been there, done it and come back from it. It’s changed me as a fighter and a person, as well as allowing me to grow, so I’m actually grateful that I’ve had to go through that experience at this stage of my career.
“What’s the point in fighting journeymen and then you have to find out the hard way that you’re not ready for this? Records are for DJs and I took that challenge in my eighth fight, performed at the highest level after I was thrown in the deep end. It was sink or swim and I came out the other side. I didn’t get the win, but it showed me what changes I had to make and made me more determined, as I had to improve. 2018 will be my year as I’m flying.
“I’ve been sparring the likes of Ryan Burnett, which I have learned so much from. I’ve been gelling with Adam and we’ve had plenty of time together to strengthen our relationship. I was chucked in a real fight early on and rose to the challenge. This is my time.
“Even in sparring, if I face someone who isn’t on my level and is beneath me, I’m not satisfied. I want to be pushed out of my comfort zone, as that is the only way you learn in life. I only moved up to the weight in April and I know believe I’ve grown into it properly.
“Sunny will beat Paddy Barnes if they ever fight, I’m 100% positive of that. Sunny is younger, fresher and a tricky fighter for anyone, so Paddy will just shy away from the challenge. He is every other fighter’s nightmare and it will be absolutely no surprise to anyone in our camp when Sunny beats him, providing Paddy takes the fight in the first place.
“I’m in a really good place and I truly believe that me and my brother are on the path to huge success. 2018 will be my year.”