Ben Edwards: Big Bang Theory

"I'm a very KO or be KOed kind of guy."

International Kickboxer Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Australia’s great heavyweight hope, Ben ‘The Guv’ner’ Edwards caught up with JARROD BOYLE to look at all that awaits him on the international fight scene. 

At 27 years of age, Ben Edwards has only been fighting for seven years. In that time, he has managed to assert himself not only at home in Australia, but also, on the international stage. He took his first steps toward it early in his career, on the K1 Kings of Oceania promotion in 2005. He met the man who may well be described as his nemesis, fellow Australian Paul Slowinski. It was Ben’s twelfth fight, against the man who held the WMC World Heavyweight title. The learning curve in heavyweight kickboxing, particularly in this region of the world, is steep.

“He fought me like a professional,” Ben remembers. “He was patient, technical, and knew that I was scared. I ran in as hard as I could and he fought me accordingly.” It was a hard, and no doubt painful lesson; Paul ended their first meeting in the second round, by way of leg kicks. “I was thrown in the deep end. I started fighting at K1 level in 2005, and I lost most of those fights. I fought Slowinski, Peter Sampson, and Jay Hepi. It was good for me, though; when you get thrown in the deep end, you have to sink or swim.”

It must be hard to undergo such a difficult test so early, in such a public way. When asked about it, Ben defines what may be ascribed as the secret of his success. “I’m philosophical about it. You have to put it in perspective. I kept going because I love it. I don’t fight to win; I fight because I love it. It feels like the right thing to do. I enjoy it whether I win or lose. I enjoy the lifestyle – it keeps you down-to-earth. It’s hard to get above yourself when you get punched in the head every day! Most of my friendship group came through kickboxing. Kickboxing gave me identity. It helped to build my self-esteem.”

Ben started kickboxing at twenty years of age, training under John Verran. “I always wanted to give it a crack. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.” Prior to that, he was a committed rugby league player. “I was a first division player for the Canberra junior Raiders until I was 17. Then, I played first grade for the Queenbeyan Blues.”

While Ben has really punched holes in Australian kickboxing to make room for his reputation, he initially seemed more comfortable with his kicking. “I always had the power [in my hands],” he says, “but I didn’t have the skills to really let them go. I’ve really been studying boxing over the last few years. Up here in Canberra, we’ve got the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). I have a lot to thank them for, especially the coach, Gary Hamilton, and fighters Steve Rudic and Alexei Muchin. I found that once your hands get going, it sets up your kicks much better.”

Ben has already found considerable success in professional boxing, a sport with not only a greater mainstream appeal than kickboxing, but more money. He won his first three fights by knockout, and recently came to a draw for an Australian title.

“I love boxing, but my passion is kickboxing. It’s the most exciting fighting style,” he says. “Boxing is probably a lot more technical, but slower-paced because of the rounds ahead of you. With kickboxing, because of the hands, legs and knees it’s more open with technique and with only three rounds, you go for it one hundred per- cent. Boxing is more of a grind, while kickboxing is more of a shootout.

“John Verran was my trainer when I started, and he was more than just a trainer – he was very much a father figure. He passed away in 2009, right before my first world title fight. It made me realise how important kickboxing was to me. From then on, I started taking it seriously. That fight would have been somewhere in the high twenties. I think the results speak for themselves.” This is as close to ‘confidence’ as Ben becomes through out the course of the interview. Otherwise, he is self-effacing and fulfils his description of himself as a ‘down-to-earth Aussie bloke’.

“The K1 Oceania in 2010 was unreal,” Ben remembers. “I’d never felt a crowd like that since I fought Hoppa (John Hopoate, a former rugby player disbarred for digital rape. Ben knocked him out in the first). “Canberra has an awesome little fight community. When there’s a big fight night on, the place goes crazy.” When asked about his nerves before meeting Slowinski in the projected final, Ben says that “I felt better from the experience of the two losses. I knew I could carry it with me.” That said, Paul Slowinski has regained his crown as International Kickboxer’s top-ranked heavyweight and stands opposite Ben as Australia’s highest-profile, internationally active heavyweight.

Ben’s next foray onto the international stage came as part of the 2010 K1 Final 16. “A film crew came out to Canberra and spent a day filming me for the trailer. They also interviewed my mum and dad. It was exciting!” Not so exciting was the news of his scheduled opponent, Alistair Overeem, the Darth Vader of the martial arts world.

“We learned I was fighting Alistair a month out. My manager tried pretty hard to get me a more even fight. He’s a massive guy, really hard to hurt. I threw everything and tried to blow him out of the water. I knew I was out of my depth I fought scared and wasted my energy. Realistically, I didn’t even have a shot.”

As with his other losses, Ben remains philosophical. “I signed with Showtime in Holland. I fight in Romania on November 17 as part of an 8 man tournament,  containing many of the blokes who would otherwise be in this years’ Final 16. I have to watch out for Errol Zimmerman. He’s the favourite, and probably the biggest name in it. We’re not expecting anything from K1 until next year. Hopefully they’ll sort themselves out by that time.”

Ben is set for a stellar 2012. He is fighting Ricardo Van Den Bos on the undercard for the Gokhan Saki/Badr Hari fight in The Netherlands. This one will be of particular interest to Aussie fight fans; Van Den Bos famously elected to throw in the towel when he stood opposite Paul Slowinski at the WMC heavyweight 8-man GP in 2005 in order to get paid, rather than pulling out in order that the crowd might see a final against a more capable, less-injured opponent. “After that, I’ll be fighting Rico Verhoeven down here in Canberra, on ‘Capital Punishment’. Verhoeven has also cut his teeth in K1 and is currently trained by Peter Aerts.

All this excitement doesn’t undermine Ben’s ‘down-to-earth Aussie bloke’ status, however. He works as the business development manager for Bleasedale National Contractors. “My boss is Jason Croker, a former Raider’s player. He understands the demands of professional sport, so he’s flexible.” After the interview comes to a close Ben sends a text, asking that I ‘mention in the article [his] appreciation for all the time and effort manager Nick Boutzos and Jamie McCuaig put into [him].” Ben understands that the Australian kickboxing community coheres around him like a family and when he goes into the ring alone, whether it’s in Canberra or Romania or Holland, he carries the group efforts, as well as the thoughts and wishes, of his family and the community he comes from with him.

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