A few hours before I sit down with Sunny Edwards, he’s posted a screenshot of his GCSE results online.
Edwards, the IBF flyweight champion of the world, is days out from his latest title defence against Felix Alvarado. Two hours a day are dedicated to training, but it gives him plenty of time to respond to his critics on Twitter, one of whom accuses him of lying about having any qualifications.
“I could cure cancer tomorrow and there’d be someone on there saying ‘why didn’t you do it the day before?’,” Edwards shrugs.
“Someone told me, ‘you didn’t get any grades’, so I posted my grade.”
This summer, footage went viral after Edwards beat up an internet troll that turned up to his gym, though he insists he now has a better understanding of the people behind the screens.
“The people that flock to the internet for catharsis, I can only imagine what’s going on in their lives outside of it,” he tells i.
“Genuinely, I think I’m going to have to come off Twitter because it’s a silly place full of silly people. It’s all hyperbole, ‘he’s useless, he’s a bum’. Well he’s not, he’s a European champion, what have you done in your life where you can be calling this man a bum? He’s providing for his family with his fists and his face. We live in a mad world – I don’t understand it, but I’ve known for a long time that I must be weird, I must be one of the odd ones out.”
Alvarado, the IBF light-flyweight champion making the step up in weight, is arguably the biggest threat yet to Edwards’ unbeaten record. Few expect him to lose, but he will remain philosophical no matter what.
“Win lose or draw, I’m an entertainer, we’re basically circus acts,” he says. “A very sad circus sometimes, it’s almost a tragedy. There’s usually a ringmaster and there’s usually a clown. But I don’t take any of it to heart. These are the fights I get up for and stay motivated. You can’t give me people I know I’m going to beat, I switch off. I suffer from the same talent syndrome that people like Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders. I need the threat.
“I might be a bit cheeky and say a few things, but we’ve got to be confident. Boxers have to be delusional, in fact. If boxers aren’t delusional, that’s when the doubts start to come in – I’ve seen it, boxers that get hit with a shot that mildly rocks their brain – and their instant reaction is walking around like they don’t want to be in a ring.”
The fights Edwards wants, the likes of Bam Rodriguez, Masayoshi Nakatani – but not Paul Butler, if he moves up to bantamweight, who he dismisses as “a muppet and his trainer is too”, “useless” and likely to leave his fight with Inoue “semi-conscious” – have the potential to elevate to new heights a man already considered in some rankings to be the pre-eminent flyweight in the world.
There is also a chance they will also take him to the USA, though that was thrown into doubt recently as Edwards, like countless other fighters, has previously worked with former boxing promoter Daniel Kinahan, who is wanted by the FBI for his alleged leadership of a criminal cartel. Edwards has previously said he has known Kinahan since he was 18 and has publicly insisted he is a “legitimate businessman”. A list of 600 of those linked to Kinahan, including Tommy Fury, have been denied entry to America, but Edwards says this has not been a problem for him.
“In the process of making the Martinez fight [which later collapsed], my ESTA and P1 visa got approved,” he says.
“So I haven’t tried, I haven’t booked a flight, but I might be due a holiday after this fight so who knows, you might see me in California. But so far I’ve had nothing to suggest otherwise – and that’s genuine, genuine, genuine.”
Edwards has been in the ring since he was nine years old, spurred on by a father who he jokes had him training harder as a child than as a professional. That is why he “can’t relate” to those in British boxing who he believes are happy to take the easy route, content with the easiest fights. (He starts to use the term “cowards”, but thinks better of it.) By contrast, he says he is determined to become “one of the best fighters that’s ever come from these shores, and I think I am already”.
While he stresses he has respect for all his opponents, his disdain for some of his rivals shines through. Butler? “I’d embarrass him, he wouldn’t even spar me. He knows I’d batter them all. I don’t think he’ll be there by the time I get to bantamweight. He’s cash-grabbing against Inoue, he’ll be out of that ring in under nine minutes. He blagged the world title”.
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And Martinez? “He doesn’t want to fight me, he’s asking for a million pounds. We’re flyweights! I think in time, I’ll be unavoidable. I’ve never been sold as a big puncher, I’m all about ring dominance. I might not knock you flat out on the floor unconscious, but there’ll be 36 minutes of you looking silly.”
The other reason he can go into the Alvarado fight without fear is that he has come to terms with the game itself.
“There’s probably more marketability in people wanting you to get beat – Floyd Mayweather showed us the blueprint of that,” he says. “Jake Paul, he does these crazy things and says mad brash stuff like ‘I’d fight Canelo, I’d fight Chris Eubank Jr’. Of course he doesn’t mean it, but the general population in this fast-food, breaking news world that we live in, that’s what goes viral.
“I could name fighters that have made a career of losing but staying interesting: David Price, Derek Chisora, Amir Khan even, jumping in against anyone, and their next purse is more each time. Why? Because people like laughing at someone, people like posting a video of Bambi legs. I feel like humans as a whole like digesting content that makes a negative emotion, you’d probably have to ask a psychologist about the behaviour of humankind in this ever-changing, meta world, virtual reality, phones attached around your waist.
“It’s a real mad world we’re living. Two-year lockdowns, rising gas prices, morale and happiness and unity in humankind being at an all-time low – maybe it’s to do with all those things. I don’t know, people say I should be a role model – why? I don’t think many people would put their kids through what I’m going through. I’m just a boxer that’s getting punched in the face, and trying to punch people in the face for the last 18 years.”
Edwards vs Alvarado details
- Date: Friday 11 November
- Venue: Utilita Arena, Sheffield
- Fight time: Ring walks are expected around 10pm UK time
- TV/live stream: The fight is free to air on FITE, with coverage starting from 5.30pm
- Undercard highlights: There is an all-British clash between super-bantamweights Jack Bateson and Shabaz Masoud, which should be a great technical clash, and one 0 has to go as both are unbeaten. Bateson’s WBA Inter-Continental belt is on the line.
- i predicts: Alvarado has excelled at light-flyweight but has limited experience in the higher weight class; Edwards, by contrast, can comfortably meet him and realistically, this should be another masterclass from the reigning IBF champion. We’re backing Edwards by unanimous decision.
- Sunny Edwards vs Felix Alvarado
- Jack Bateson vs Shabaz Masoud
- Hebert Conceicao Sousa vs Kyle Lomotey
- Thomas Essomba vs Marcel Braithwaite
- Levi Kinsiona vs TBC
- Ishmael Davis vs TBC
- Nicolie Campbell vs TBC
- Kyle Yousef vs TBC
- Khalid Ayub vs TBC
- Bradley Cousins vs TBC
- Lisa Whiteside vs TBC
Sunny Edwards takes on Felix Alvarado at Probellum Sheffield on Friday, November 11. Limited tickets still available at Ticketmaster.co.uk