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‘They’re going to get a young kid killed in a boxing ring’: Trainer Stephen Edwards goes off on PED use in boxing

PED use in boxing is no secret, and one trainer thinks nothing will change until the worst happens — if even then.

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It is curious, if you think about it, how there isn’t more noise, more of a sustained demand for stringent PED testing in boxing, being that the repercussions of cheating, of using a banned substance to improve your performance, which includes punching harder and more often than without that aid, could be so severe.

Like, death.

Dying… that could be the by-product if and when one athlete who has used PEDs to make his muscles more weaponistic than they’d be without chemical enhancement inflicts severe trauma on a clean athlete, who then succumbs, because of head trauma, and passes away.

Maybe it’s already happened, in fact…

Now, to be sure, we hear about the need for testing, we get periodic bursts from fighters and the sports powers that be on this issue…but not, inarguably, like we should. After all, this isn’t baseball. Sure, a juiced batsman could smash a ball back at the pitcher and explode his skull. But this hypothetical occurs ever so rarely as is…whereas, in boxing, a disadvantage enjoyed by a PED user over a non-user could tilt the playing field to a fatal level.

Floyd Mayweather a few years back was front and center on the issue, as he harangued Manny Pacquiao to take the test.

And then, eyebrows were raised when Floyd himself was the center of stories which stirred up provocative questions about his own habits in training and cast a shadow over his status as an agent of remedy.

Nonito Donaire proudly took a stand for 24-7, 365 testing years ago, but no, there was not a stampede of similarly moved pugilists following in his wake.

Today, the WBC has drawn solid reviews for a least putting a spotlight on the issue, keeping it alive, and formulating their Clean Boxing Program, which subjects enrollees to the possibility of being tested year-round.

So, there has been grounds for hope and there are people invested in the issue. No joke; three recent proposed opponents for Deontay Wilder have tested positive for PED usage, the latest being Luis Ortiz, who was dislodged from a Nov. 4 date with the Alabaman after diuretics were detected in his sample. Wilder’s breakthrough career signature bout prior to that had been set up with Alexander Povetkin. The Russian, in May 2016, tested positive for a PED, and the Wilder-Povetkin mashup circled down the drain.

So, those positive tests should, in fact, point to progress, as it shows testing is occurring and red flags are popping up.

But not enough of them, not according to trainer Stephen Edwards aka “Breadman.” The 41 year old, who helms Julian “J-Roc” Williams, currently in camp in California getting ready for a Nov. 18 fight against Ishe Smith, told the listeners of the Everlast podcast “TALKBOX” that he appreciated Wilder for calling for testing.

Edwards said he has to give Wilder props, and that “the only people that are going to talk about testing are clean people…Deontay Wilder is one of the 15 to 20 percent of the fighters in the top ten or 15 that are clean today,” he declared.

Yes, Edwards went there. Just was Wilder did on Saturday, at Barclays Center, before the card kicked off. He was talking about his frustration with his foes testing positive and the WBC heavyweight champ said that he thinks many, many, many of the top heavyweights are using. Nothing earth-shattering, if you think about who’s been busted and what they were ranked…

We will look back at this era, Edwards continued, and questions whose KOs were legit…and whose were chemically enhanced.

“These kids’ lives are on the line,” he reminded us, but the stakes are so immense, the purses are so much higher in the upper tier bouts, that it makes it oh so tempting for athletes to cut corners.

Edwards said that the CPB program is good, but he wants people to sign up for heavy-duty VADA testing as much as possible. It isn’t cheap, but compared to the purses in some of these mega-bouts, it is affordable, he stated. “Shouldn’t everyone want to make sure (people are clean)…you can fucking get killed in the boxing ring!”

Yes, he was speaking from the heart and gut and his passion over flowed. Bless him. Why aren’t more people more passionate?

Edwards is on the same page as me when he says he doesn’t like to cast aspersions without proof. But, he said, it seems OFF when A side fighters aren’t calling for stringent testing. Point taken; indeed, why wouldn’t you, if you had that leverage and power to get your foe to test, why wouldn’t you? Maybe because you are so confident in your ability and you trust your opponent, I guess. But Edwards makes a fine point there.

The trainer explained that “I hate fucking cheating,” and no, he is no saint. He has sinned…but on this matter, he is hardcore. “I never once asked Julian to put a needle in his arm, take testosterone, any EPO, or any of that bullshit, I just want him to win the right way,” Edwards said.

No, he’s not perfect, “I just hate cheaters, Mike…and nothing bothers me more than when the networks put guys on and they know they be cheating!”

Edwards kept it real, and then some. So, are people juicing because they think the other guy is?

“You know how many people have told me to give Julian PEDs? I had at least five people tell me to juice him up. Swear on my kids. Just juice him up, everybody’s doing it! You guys might as well just juice the fuck up and win a title. He’s already talented as it is, if he juice he’ll be a beast! That’s what’s going on now! I had someone tell me, ‘man you crazy for not juicing, if they’re not blood testing obviously you know what’s going on, just juice like everybody else!’ That’s what’s going on now!”

The trainer spoke on a matter that folks who are ingesting these radical and exotic chemicals probably aren’t keen to focus in on. Quality of life decades later. He noted that so many pro wrestlers die before their time and offered the quite reasonable correlation between that fact and the fast and loose atmosphere in that milieu, which called for body builder physiques on the sports entertainers. “Nobody talks about it, they’re just fucking dying!”

Eff bombs, and completely warranted.

Why aren’t more of us more passionate about the issue? Are we so cynical, as with our politics, and just assume that the heroes are too hard to come by…integrity is a dying trait…and thus we have surrendered because we think PED usage is inevitable?

“I’m not accusing nobody of nothing,” but “there should be testing,” Edwards said. “Everybody should be tested at this level...when you got guys in the top ten and getting ready for title fights and championship level guys fighting these 12 round fights, they should have a needle stuck in their arm, and doing it a week or two weeks before a fight is not enough. You should be testing all the time!” Edwards says guys use, finish a cycle, then announce a fight. Fighting two times a year, he said, works within that cycle framework.

The consciences of the clean coaches and fighters need to perk up, Edwards said, because corner-cutters will keep on that path.

“They’re not going to stop, Mike,” he warned, “until someone gets killed. Somebody’s going to get killed in a boxing ring, you fucking mark it down! They’re going to get a young kid killed in a boxing ring. And then somebody’s going to want to do something about it, and it’s going to be too late. You mark it down! They’re going to get somebody killed! These dudes is getting too big, they’re punching too hard with these little ass gloves, the skull is not meant to take certain shit. They’re going to get somebody fucking killed, and nobody’s going to laugh anymore, it’s not going to be sour grapes anymore. Then that’s when they’re gonna wanna do a real investigation. And then you know what’s gonna happen? Everyone’s gonna start telling on each other! The strength and conditioning coaches are all gonna start ratting and snitching on each other. You mark it down!”

So, now we wait. Does this callout get a little buzz and then die out? Or does a leader…or two, or more, pick up a torch, and follow Edwards’ lead? Time will tell…

”I’m gonna keep pushin, I ain’t no quitter,” the trainer said and I think it’s fair to say when we see an Edwards fighter win a crown, we can feel pretty comfortable it’s been done the right way. No corners cut, no exotic chemicals having been ingested.

It should be this way, because boxing ain't baseball, it is no game, the stakes are too damned high to surrender to cheating.

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