By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
On a night dedicated to Frank Warren’s heavyweight bruisers – Joe Joyce vs Bryant Jennings and Daniel Dubois vs Nathan Gorman serving as top billing – super flyweight sensation Sunny Edwards finds himself looking to have his own slice of the pie.
Fresh from stopping Pedro Matos in March, the second defense of his WBO European title, he fights Hiram Gallardo on Saturday night. His Mexican opponent, 12-2-2, is an unknown quantity to British fight fans and we began by discussing if that mystery gave Edwards any problems in his preparation.
“I’ll always say when I’m sent a fighter, especially at this sort of level, because I back myself to win against anyone – all fighters will – so it’s then up to Grant (Smith) to make the call. He has turned down opponents in the past because we couldn’t find any information out about them but when it comes to training I just do what Grant is telling me. He’s the one I trust to get me ready for a fight and try and make adjustments before the fight.
Even when I have been able to watch all of an opponent’s fights, they never box like that on the night; a lot of the time they haven’t fought someone like me so it’s impossible to predict how they’re going to react. There were clips of Pedro Matos looking like an absolute bull but I wasn’t going to allow him to get ten shot combinations off. Really, I suss them out in the first three rounds and that’s when I get a feel for them – I see their rhythm, their hesitations and that’s information I wouldn’t be able to get from watching a video beforehand.”
I’ll just lowball them
With initial plans to fight a fellow domestic fighter put to bed by no-one’s willingness to step forward, Gillardo came in after two other opponents were knocked back – one rejected by the IBF and one due to a lack of information. Despite a swift game of opponent ping-pong, the 23 year old ventured his take on being an avoided fighter.
“All these fighters probably would fight me but they must rate me to a degree where they think I’m going to get to world level and that’s when they’ll want to fight me. They all say ‘it’s a big fight down the line’ but it’s a big fight now, let’s be honest, and I don’t think they’re going to get to that level. When I do get to that level I’m not giving anyone handouts, they’re not sponging off my achievements, if you’ve ducked and dived me now don’t expect Sunny to see you whenever you please.
They will have to work to a mandatory position or I’ll just lowball them so they’re fighting for a world title with a six rounder purse. If I’m fighting for a world title I want it to be against world level fighters not Tommy Frank just because he’s British, that doesn’t matter to me.”
I don’t plan on retiring until I’m 38
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he continued, “that I’ve not been able to box for a British title but I plan on having a very long career and I’ve already beaten Ryan Farrag – who’s the next highest ranked British fighter – so it’s not in my interest to chase guys that just don’t want to fight me. I’ve already beaten the next best domestic fighter so I’ll happily kick on and learn against these international opponents because it’s still pushing my in the right direction. I don’t plan on retiring until I’m 38 or something like that because my career isn’t a cash grab so I will fight for the British title before I retire.”
Indeed that frustration is a means for Sunny to showcase a more business-like approach to the contest with a desire to “get the job done”. Whilst Gallardo wasn’t necessarily the first choice opponent, it doesn’t mean there’s an air of indifference about the contest with every fight being looked at as “an opportunity to steal the show”. That in itself is enough to get the former Team GB representative geared up.
“If I’ve got someone like Ryan Farrag in the other corner it becomes a lot easier to train for because I’m emotionally invested in those fights. I’ve never met this kid I’m fighting, I doubt he can speak English so there’s not going to be any needle and it’s more of a ‘business’ fight than something that really means something to me. You’ve got to stay professional, obviously, and I look forward to putting on a stage; I love boxing and I’ve always wanted to box at the O2 so it’s easy to get excited but it’s a different sort of excitement.
I think it’s quite obvious that I just enjoy fighting and even when I get caught by a good shot you can see a little wry smile. It’s respect, I respect the discipline, and I enjoy seeing all the hard work being put into a show on the night.”
I wasn’t expecting to be on big shows
Boxing at the O2 Arena is a far cry from his debut out in Marbella or subsequent fights on Glasgow dinner shows and recreation centres in Tolworth. It is, however, a sign of how quickly fate can change in boxing but, for Grant Smith’s charge, none of this came as a surprise – the unglamorous beginnings nor the opportunities being presented to him now.
“I can have no complaints about my career so far because I feel like MTK have done me a very good job of getting me onto platforms, when I’ve needed them and opening Frank Warren’s eyes as to how good I can be. When I was fighting in six rounders I wasn’t expecting to be on big shows, why would you, but I was happy to get in there, stay busy and, to be honest, getting paid very decently for a flyweight.
I’ve never demanded to go on TV or be on certain cards, I’ve just dealt with the fights in front of me, and I think that’s what my promoter likes about me. For my fourth fight I was gloved at six and told I would be in the ring at half six but I didn’t box until midnight – the next fight, quite soon after, they basically paid me an extra round’s purse as a sweetener so I’ve always felt they’ve looked after me.”
That performance against Ryan Farrag was enough to impress even the most begrudging of spectators and, despite the pre-fight animosity, the WBO’s #5 identifies that contest as a necessary step to elevating himself to front and centre of the super flyweight scene.
“If you look at the trajectory of my career I can say I’ve gone down a route where I’ve taken hard fights before I had to; I needed a dancing partner like Ryan Farrag to take myself from an undercard fighter to a TV fighter. Before my Farrag fight I had never boxed live on TV and now every fight is on a TV slot because I’ve earned where I’ve got to and I plan to keep it that way.
I always knew where I was going, that’s always been made clear to me, and some people were scratching my head because Charlie was on TV from his debut but now it’s starting to show I’ve had the perfect development. Apart from being put down against Granados you’d be hard pushed to say I’ve lost a round, realistically, and that’s because I’ve been built well.”
Saturday’s fight, for the IBF International title, is “about opening doors” to put Edwards one step closer to a world title. Having become a father last year there’s added skin in the game for Sunny as he looks to set up Chance, now eight months old, for the future. Indeed we might even see the tiny pitter-patter of Chance’s feet in the ring one day with him “getting used to running around the gym in his walker”.
The immediate point of focus for the young father will be Hiram Gallardo and he finished by explaining to me what his opponent should be most nervey of.
“I would like to think you’re going to see a more spiteful Sunny in the ring – a cold performance – where I handle the fight in front of me in as clinical fashion as possible because there’s no point in dragging something out for the sake of it.”
I can make rounds look very clear cut for me without really doing much because of my movement and my elusiveness. There were rounds against Ryan Farrag where I made him look like a fool and I’ve always said I’d understand people avoiding me if I was a knockout artist but, actually, it’s the frustration that finishes off fighters.
If you’ve been caught with a heavy punch you can always tell yourself anyone would have got caught by it but you can’t make that sort of an excuse after being surgically embarrassed for 10, 12 rounds!”
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