Boxing

The Welsh boxer with enough siblings for a football team

The Welsh boxer with enough siblings for a football team

Rhys Edwards won five Welsh titles and two British titles as an amateur [Getty Images]

Boxing might be the loneliest sport, just not for Welsh fighter Rhys Edwards.

One of 11 siblings, Edwards has been known to sleep in the boxing gym in the lead-up to fights to ensure he is able to fully focus. Sometimes solitude is what he seeks.

The 24-year-old is set for “the biggest night of his career” on Saturday as chief support to Lauren Price’s world title fight against Jessica McCaskill in Cardiff.

The fight night will be live and free-to-air on BBC Wales from 21:00 BST in a simulcast with Sky Sports.

Price, 29, will bid to become Wales' 14th world champion and first female world champion at the Utilita Arena.

In the main undercard fight, featherweight Edwards will look to extend his unblemished 15-0 record as he steps up in class to face Thomas Patrick Ward, a former British champion who has won 34 of his 36 professional fights.

Currently living with his partner and looking forward to seeing his family on fight night, Edwards will be fully focused and prepared as he bids to show why he is considered one of Welsh boxing’s brightest prospects.

‘Sometimes you need to escape the chaos’

Edwards has sold hundreds of tickets for his fight on Saturday at the Utilita Arena, but he admits he has a bit of a head start on some of his stablemates due to the sheer size of his family.

“It is exciting to box in a home crowd in front of my family and friends,” Edwards told BBC Sport Wales.

“To get my family there I will need an entire bus. I am one of 11, I have six brothers and four sisters.

“My oldest brother Gareth is 32 and my youngest siblings are my two little twin sisters, who are 15.

“Growing up in a house with so many siblings? It’s crazy.

“Also as a boxer it isn’t very helpful sometimes. There are so many sweets and ways to cheat, the temptation is always there. Living out of the house with my partner and her mother, it’s a lot easier that way.”

There have been times that, to best focus on boxing, Edwards has slept where he trains, at the Phoenix Boxing Club in Llanrumney.

“Sometimes the easiest thing was to just sleep in the gym, just so I could fully focus and not take any short-cuts,” he said.

“Sometimes you just needed to escape the chaos and the temptations. If I ever needed to do that, I would just sleep in the gym.”

'It's got 10.4 million views on TikTok'

Edwards admits he has not always been as wedded to boxing as he needed to be, with his unblemished record perhaps more of a reflection of his open class talent – having won his first amateur title aged 13 – than the dedication he has shown to the sport since turning professional in 2018.

The Penygraig boxer showed in his last fight that his improved focus is paying dividends. It was a barnstormer with Brad Foster that he won on points, having gone the distance for the first time and come on strong in the later rounds.

Under the tutelage of former WBU middleweight champion Gary Lockett, Edwards is finally exhibiting his talents on the biggest stages.

The Rhondda boxer is no stranger to the spotlight, however, having become something of a celebrity on social media.

A video of Edwards ducking a pillow his partner is swinging at his head during the Covid-19 lockdown has more than 10 million views on TikTok.

“One video has been a big success, loads of big pages picked it up,” Edwards explains.

“It was in lockdown, I look massive but it’s when I started training at home, it’s a video of my missus trying to take my head off!

“I was swiping all day at how many views that video was getting. It was absolutely crazy.”

In his last win over Brad Foster, Rhys Edwards went the distance for the first time in his pro career [Getty Images]

Wales’ big boxing nights

Edwards has his sights set on join the pantheon of Welsh boxing greats and if Price is destined to become Wales’ 14th world champion, Edwards, who believes his “speed and boxing brain” are his biggest assets, has earmarked becoming number 15.

He will need to beat Ward first, but it is exactly the kind of fight that is likely to catapult him to bigger and better opportunities, should he win.

“It is the biggest night of my career, definitely the biggest moment of my career,” Edwards added.

When I found out I was the main support fight, well it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

Edwards says he has no doubts that he can prove he belongs at the world stage and can be competitive at world level in the featherweight division.

“I want to be a world champion,” he said.

“I know I can get there. I just have to stay dedicated and stay focused, I know I can go to the top.”

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