VIKINGS: Defensive end Ray Edwards takes first swing at boxing
ST. PAUL This is the world Ray Edwards wants now. Instead of lining up against 300-pound linemen and flying to Green Bay, the Vikings defensive end is lining up against 5-foot-9 former kickboxers and driving to small-town casinos for his next match.
This is the world Ray Edwards wants now.
Instead of lining up against 300-pound linemen and flying to Green Bay, the Vikings defensive end is lining up against 5-foot-9 former kickboxers and driving to small-town casinos for his next match.
Edwards is a boxer now, and he's not worried about whether fans -- or the rest of the NFL -- understand.
That journey officially begins tonight at around 9:30 at Grand Casino Hinckley against T.J. Gibson, with both fighters making their pro boxing debuts.
At Thursday night's weigh-in at Throwbacks Grille and Bar in Woodbury, the 6-5, 258.5-pound Edwards had almost 40 pounds and eight inches on the 5-9, 222-pound Gibson, a 34-year-old former amateur kickboxing champion from Hibbing,
"Some people think I'm doing it just to be doing it, but I don't care," said Edwards, 26. "My God knows what I'm doing, I know what I'm doing. I'm happy, my woman's happy, my family's happy, my trainer's happy."
As the main attraction on a six-fight card that begins at 7:30, Edwards has a two-bout contract with promoters Midwest Sports Council and RDS Company. Edwards and the promoters declined comment on the terms of the deal, but KSTP-AM 1500 reported Edwards is due $5,000 and 50 percent of gate receipts.
Edwards' camp hopes the two fights can be completed before the NFL lockout is lifted -- as if he is even concentrating on the league right now.
Edwards, a free agent, calls himself "the odd man out" in the Vikings'
long-term plans after the team signed Brian Robison, his backup the past two seasons, to a three-year, $14.1 million deal.
The Vikings placed a restricted tender worth around $3 million on Edwards, who might be an unrestricted free agent based on his five years of service and the post-lockout collective bargaining agreement.
After months of skepticism regarding a return to Minnesota, Edwards said he's getting tired of talking about it and is prepared to focus on boxing full time.
"They say they (want me back), but the paper trail says where it's at," said Edwards of the Vikings.
The local boxing scene is where Edwards feels accepted.
A collection of trainers, local boxing aficionados and a few Vikings fans watched Edwards step on the scale in blue spandex.
There was no formal news conference, no trash-talking session, just Edwards sitting in a row with 11 other fighters on a small stage, waiting for his turn to be weighed.
Edwards and Gibson posed face-to-face for a quick snapshot, then Edwards spent an hour mingling and signing autographs.
"It's more enjoyable. It's very laid back," Edwards said of the boxing world. "You don't have coaches telling you you have a curfew at a certain time. You're more of a man here than you are in the NFL."
Edwards said he expects a few teammates to witness his debut, including defensive linemen Pat and Kevin Williams, linebacker E.J. Henderson, safety Husain Abdullah and safety Eric Frampton.
Since Edwards never has stepped into the ring as a professional, it's still uncertain what his teammates can expect.
Edwards and trainer Jeff Warner aren't revealing their strategy, but Warner can easily summarize Edwards' strength as a boxer.
"Ridiculous speed," Warner said.
Gibson said he isn't fazed by Edwards' height and weight advantage because of his ability to stay in fights long enough to potentially land a huge blow. He also said he has never been knocked out in a professional fight -- his overall record is 20-3, according to Gibson -- and doesn't plan to start now.
"I just have to hit him with my best shot," Gibson said. "Maybe since he has never been in a professional fight he won't know what hit him."
Once Edwards finishes his two-bout contract, apparently Kimbo Slice is waiting. Former EliteXC vice president Jared Shaw told MMAWeekly Radio this week that he can deliver a Slice-Edwards card soon.
Just name the place.
"I'll fight anyone, as long as the purse is right," Edwards said.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.