The new British boxing world champion is a pure inspiration
An interview with new WBC Flyweight World Champion Charlie Edwards on how he used meditation and visualisation to recover from depression and fulfil a promise to his poorly mum.
When the referee raised Charlie Edwards’ arm in the O2 Arena to declare him the WBC Flyweight World Champion on 22nd December, the outpouring of emotion from the 25 year old fighter was there for all to see – at least until it disappeared under the pile of ecstatic bodies depending on him from his corner.
Edwards had trained his entire life for that moment of beating Cristofer Rosales, and had bounced back from an earlier title defeat in 2016 against Riel Casemiro which had put him into a depression – but he had also made a promise to his mum, who had suffered from cancer for several years and to whom he swore he’d deliver a world champion belt to. The video of him embracing her in the dressing room after the fight and handing her the belt understandably went viral, and now the word is truly out on Charlie Edwards and his inspiring message of family and the power of positive thinking – the guy’s going to be a superstar. We managed to grab a word with Croydon’s new hero as he returns to the gym after Christmas to plot his next move…
Congratulations on your victory, how have things been since the fight?
There’s been a massive change – not a change in me I’m the same person, I’m not walking around with a big ego – but the change in the exposure is mad. I’ve worked hard to get here but I haven’t had a lot of exposure in my career, and now the amount of people coming through on my social has been crazy.
I’ve been aware that things are changing with all the attention, but I’ve used these last two weeks away to re-evaluate everything, to try and learn lessons from what’s coming at me. It’d be very easy to get caught up in it and be overwhelmed, but I’m just learning and constructing my lifestyle in the right way. I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym next week, and having a sit down with Eddie Hearn and my management, and we’re going to look at the plan – whether that’s a unification fight or whatever, I just want to get back down to business. Now the hard work really starts. I want to be an active world champion, I want to build a legacy, I want to unify the division, I want to get these top fighters in. I’m hungry, I’m more hungry than ever.
What did you do with your break?
I was away enjoying my time with my very close friends. For me it’s all well and good to celebrate for a bit, but at the end of the day I’m at my best when I’m working. My best life is when I’m training, when I’m bettering myself, when I’m down the gym every day. Feeling good, feeling fit, and when I’ve got my coach around me. When I’m in the gym I feel at home. My biggest thing is I’m a workaholic. I first started boxing at 11, and when I was 13, 14, I was out pounding the rope in the morning before school and then again at night. I’ve really lived the life of a truly professional athlete. That’s why I’ve got the rewards I have because I’ve dedicated my whole life to it. I’ve achieved a lifelong dream, but I’m not satisfied and I’m ready to have more.
With the actual fight, how did your strategy meet the raw reality of the actual fight?
It went exactly how we thought. I’m a big believer in visualisation, meditation, the law of attraction. My coach Grant Smith slowly got it into my subconscious mind. I was going to bed every night visualising everything from the press conference, to the weigh-in, to the moment someone gave the last knock on the door saying ring walk time, to when I got out on the stage to look up and see all the people there.
So the fight was already something I’d done in my mind. I lost the first round but I went out there not to go gung-ho, not to try too hard. I’d learned from the experience I had from the Casemero fight before of going gung-ho and getting hurt really badly in the first round, which changed the whole fight. I realised I could feel him out and give him a bit of false confidence, and then take it away from him straight away in the second round. Get him to think he was touching me in the first round, thinking “I’m going to get this guy,” but then having to deal with me turning the screw round by round.
Really, it happened how we thought it would. I’d take a half step back each time – touching him first, taking a half step back and then going in again. And with me going in close as well, holding him, frustrating him, and with my movement dazzling him, he didn’t know what to do.
People were saying I didn’t have the punch power, but the reality was when he was getting caught by my shots – especially in the fourth round where he got caught with that upper cut – he realised he had to respect me. And when he had to respect me that’s when we knew we had him.
It was all in the plan. Grant is an absolute technician, he was spot on from the word go and he programmed my subconscious mind over weeks and weeks of training. What to do, what not to do, tricky situations you could get into, if we get a cut what to do – it was just so on point, and that’s why the performance was so on point.
When I walked into that ring I said, “Do you know what, we ain’t going in as the challenger, we’re the champion. We’re walking this walk as the champion.” And that’s why in that performance I look like the champion and he looked like the challenger. And that’s why the fight went the way it did.
When did you start on the meditation and visualisation aspects?
I picked it up because I really struggled after the Casemero fight – I had a bit of depression I really struggled with the mental side of things. I want to a sports psychiatrist and then off the back of that, I went over to Cambodia and Vietnam and looked at Buddhism and the way they visualised everything. I’m not religious in any way, I’m more spiritual. I do believe in the law of attraction, and I believe in the universe. I really do believe that we can create anything we want as long as we’re living the lifestyle we need to. You can’t just think it, you need to make it happen, construct your life, put everything into place – but when you’re giving out what you want to receive back, and doing all that work, then the universe will have no choice to give you the opportunities you deserve to become what you want to be.
It certainly seems to work for you…
A lot of people will understand what I’m talking about and not think I’m mad, but then a lot of people won’t get it and will probably think “Is he all there?” But on a number of occasions it’s worked for me. When I was a kid I was doing it without realising, but now I’m aware of it I think anything is possible in this life. I ask for things and believe in it and I’ve received them. I’m walking proof that it is reality and it is the truth.
Can you tell us about the process of getting through your mental health problems?
When I got beat I fell into a bit of depression. After I lost I could not look someone in the eye and talk about the fight. My way of dealing with it was running away and pretending it never happened. I booked a holiday and went to France and then Spain. I couldn’t walk the streets of my local area I was absolutely embarrassed.
Me and my sister went out around the time, just to the shop and someone recognised me from the fight and came to talk to me about it. I was just looking down at the floor, I felt that uncomfortable, and then I walked away. My sister was like, “Are you alright?”, and I said, “I can’t talk about it, I can’t face that this has happened.”
I really thought my life was done, I thought my career was over. And I thought everyone was laughing at me, and it got me a bit paranoid. You get a lot of hate when you’re an up and comer and people do like to see people fail. But I let it go to an extreme, it hurt me badly, and with everything happening with my mum, everything was going down.
My mum was very ill, and getting beat in my professional career was hard, when everyone thinks you have to have your 0 as a pro, or no-one cares about you. I’d worked all that time to get there, it was just swept away from me.
It was all in my head, because the reality was I’d got a lot of exposure from that fight. Everyone thought I’d be knocked out early, and I showed that I’ve got the heart of a lion. I showed I’m hungry for it but in that aftermath period for two weeks I really couldn’t see any of it. Then reality hit home and I was like, right, if I don’t have a fight before Christmas, I’ll have to continue with this painful negative energy – I don’t know how bad I would have gone. I had to snap myself out of it and go, “Fuck this, you can’t sit around here drinking and eating loads, and being unhealthy, that’s not you, you’re at your best and your mental well being is at its best when you’re in the gym striving to get somewhere.”
At the end of the day it showed me a lot about my circle around me, and it taught me about things I’m so grateful for now. Had I not been through that adversity and getting beat, now being a world champion it could absolutely have gone to my head and made me be this big time, big headed person.
I’m learning every day, I make mistakes and I learn from them. It’s not about making mistakes and dwelling on them, it’s about making them and brushing yourself down, and getting better from it. And if you can do that every day you’re going to become a better man. You will never be the finished article and that’s how I look at it now.
The video of you and your mum in the dressing room after the fight went viral. You didn’t think she’d be there…
She’s been ill for four years, the only other fight she’d been to was my professional debut. She fell ill with breast cancer just before my debut, but didn’t tell me and we went through that moment together. But she went for the treatment after and that’s when the downward spiral happened. She didn’t have chemo they went down the radiotherapy route and just blasted her with it. But she had a cavernoma on the brain and it burst apart. Finally it got to the point where they had to remove it or she was going to die. When I went there before she went down for the operation, she was in pain but she could talk still and we had to say…not goodbyes, but when something’s a 50/50 what do you do? We went in one by one as a family and when I went in there I kissed her and said, “Don’t think this is your fault, this is what life gives you and whatever happens I will always love you and I know you will always be with me.” She pulled me in, gave me a kiss, and went, “Charlie no matter how bad this is or how bad I get, promise me you will never give up on your dream. One day you are going to be a world champion.”
I can still remember that conversation now.
It was a very painful thing. She came through but had brain damage and she had to go to rehab, then she had more strokes, and was in and out of hospital. For the Casemero fight, she wasn’t well enough to come, but I’d promised her I’d bring the world title home, so when the reality hit that it wouldn’t happen, that’s what drove me more than anything to turn things around because I didn’t know how long my mum had left. That’s why when I came back after being beat, I was calling for these world shots straight away. I wanted a world title.
Coming into this fight, I wanted to make it happen for my mum. Before the fight, she went into hospital again for ten days. They thought it was another bleed on the brain, and at that point I was preparing myself for the worst.
Then four days before the fight my sister called to say she’d out and coming to the fight. That was a big relief, it lifted my spirits again.
I fulfilled a lifelong dream and I fulfilled the promise to my mum.
Caught in the moment ❤️ pic.twitter.com/L77xx2fbUM
— Charlie Edwards (@CEdwardsBoxing) December 23, 2018
Boxers aren’t just these tough, emotionless guys are they?
Boxers are the most emotional people in the world! You put on a front for the camera for the fight but really we’re just normal guys. Life has a funny way of dealing with people and I believe what happens in your life constructs you into the type of person you need to be.
I’m normal, I’m humble, I’m down to earth, I’m the same as anyone else. People choose different lives for different reasons but at the end of the day no-ones better than anyone else.
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