Ben Edwards – Australian Boxing Champion

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Ben Edwards is always good for a chat. Since last we spoke, he has added Australian Heavyweight Boxing Champion to his string of achievements. He was kind enough to do a lap of the Theme Park in order to fill us in on the details.

What happened with Glory?

They basically said after my last fight [against Errol Zimmerman], ‘We are not interested in Ben Edwards’. They didn’t even make us an offer. I had a two-fight deal. Most people start that way.

Originally, they were offering huge contracts; Aerts, Spong, Zimmerman were on good money. Between $70 and $250,000K for one fight. Obviously, Glory weren’t even getting close to a return on that. They couldn’t continue to pay that much and fighters didn’t want to fight for less. Gokhan Saki is now contracted to the GFC [Global Fighting Championship]. Tyrone Spong has gone in the direction of pro boxing. Who knows what Daniel Ghita is doing.

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How do you feel about finishing up with kickboxing after all these years?

With what’s happened so far, really good. It’s always hard to walk away. There were always going to be offers to come back, but unless it’s a miracle – like stupid money – I had to stick to my guns and walk away. I got an offer from GFC to fight, but I said I wasn’t interested.

The other thing is that the general public don’t even understand the sport. I always get asked, ‘Do you wear a gi? Do you wear gloves?’ Only hardcore [kickboxing fans] know who the fuck Saki is.

I’ve stuck with boxing. It’s really good; easier to train for. The Stockade Training Centre is awesome. I’ve got world-class trainers. I have everything I need between three cities – Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney – to train for a world title.

It’s good for a fresh start, too. New ringcraft, new techniques. Funnily enough, yesterday was the anniversary of my first kickboxing fight, 11 years ago.

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How did you discover boxing? Was it part of kickboxing?

Pretty much. I became friends with boxing guys in Canberra because they trained in the same gym. I dabbled in boxing for fun and fitness. [John] Hopoate was my first fight. I dropped him twice in the first round. The referee stopped it after a minute and a half.

You had some training at the AIS, for boxing. Tell us a bit about Alexei Muchin?

I had been in to do some sparring with the Australian Olympic team back in 2012, for London. The guy who came second, Alexei Muchin, he’s now one of my cornermen. He’s second-in-charge behind my head trainer, Gary Hamilton.

How did you settle on your current team?

I’ve always sort of been affiliated with these guys, but intermittently. Boxing training was supplemental to kickboxing, or a one-off boxing fight. Five years ago, Gary Hamilton started up Stockade. It’s an awesome facility. If I was going to box, it was going to be with him. All my friends are there. I’m stoked with my decision.

It changes things so much when you have a world-class corner. Gary and Alexei are veterans of Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. I like their style. No one’s stressing out; they are relaxed.

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What does your training look like now?

After rehab for my shoulder after the Zimmerman fight, I started doing my strength-and-conditioning at Elite Physiotherapy and Elite High Performance. I do three nights boxing, one night sparring, and on top of that I have two or three sessions of what I like to do. Some abs, and some grip strength training.

Grip Strength?

I’ve got bad hands for fighting. My index and middle finger protrude; I always hurt those first two knuckles. My hands are really good now. They used to be a mess.

How do you feel about the young Queensland boxer killed in the ring last week?

Awful. Braydon Smith, I think his name was. The obvious question is whether or not weight cutting was an issue. It usually is, most of the time. There’s diminishing returns with too much weight-cutting; you’re just not going to be there for the full ten to twelve rounds.

You brain floats in water. Why take it out the day before a boxing fight just to get a size advantage? If you voluntarily cut between five and eight per cent of your body weight, you’re crazy. You’re just putting yourself in danger.

I don’t want to say the wrong thing about this bloke because I don’t know the facts, but I do know the facts about brain injuries in a whole lot of other boxing fights and that’s always to do with too much weight cutting.

I’ve occasionally tried to adjust my sodium levels so I can look a bit better and then I spar and find I’m getting rocked left, right and center. I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on here? I don’t have a chin anymore.’

Then, I go home and have a big salty meal and lots of water and I feel fine. And that’s only experimenting with sodium levels, not even restricting water. Let alone cutting that much weight.

When I don’t restrict my salt, there’s a noticeable difference; I find I’m not getting hurt anywhere near as much when there’s head contact. And that’s only three to four per-cent of my body weight. These guys cut a lot more. It’s crazy.

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