CHARLIE EDWARDS was almost done with boxing. Only 28 years old, a former WBC belt holder, he ought to have plenty more to offer. But he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to fight again.

He’s boxed and won twice since his 2019 contest with Julio Cesar Martinez but that fight and its aftermath haunted him a while. Back then, even when he was the WBC flyweight belt-holder, he started to struggle. “I didn’t really cope with being world champion very well,” he told Boxing News. “It was like everyone wanted a piece of me and I didn’t know how to cope. I was getting pulled from pillar to post.”

The weight-making alone was too much. “It killed me that weight, it took my soul away, made me fall into a dark depression,” he added. “The two-week check weight, I really struggled. I was sitting in hot baths in the morning, I couldn’t sleep, I was up at five in the morning, sitting in a hot bath before and then went down the gym to do a training session. I should have pulled out, I shouldn’t have fought but I felt like I had to.

“I half knew three weeks before I was going to be beat that night. [He thought to himself] I just need to go in there and try my best and what will be will be. It was like I was going on death row.”

Mentally he was in a dark place. He had been delighted to take possession of the WBC belt at first. But later in camp, on his own he would gaze at that belt as doubt consumed him. “I was sitting there looking at it and thinking where’s everyone now?” he reflected. He felt terribly lonely. “Driving my head up the wall with the pressure of defending that,” Charlie said. “I’m looking at that thinking, ‘How the f**k have I won that?’ And I feel like a fraud that I won that. I’m not good enough… You look at all your idols and it’s hard to deal with when you become that level… I get paranoid with myself.”

After the Martinez fight, his downward spiral would continue. “Reality was I got hit to the body and my body weren’t functioning right so it shut down and then when I was on the floor, I took a knee to try and recover because I felt it. I took a knee and he hit me when I was on the floor and that was me done,” he explained of the bout that was later ruled a no contest. “[Going from] everything flying to then what happened to me, suffering a bit of depression, not being able to deal with the Martinez fight. With how everything went, the controversy, the s**t it brought on social media, the s**t a lot of people were chatting about me, it really affected me and the reality was I shouldn’t have fought that night.”

Aftereffects lingered on. “It was scary for me because I was going into the gym and I just had no energy, no nothing and I didn’t really know what was going on. So I made the conclusion maybe I need a fresh start, maybe I need a change, maybe I’m not enjoying training no more. Or I’m not enjoying boxing anymore,” Charlie said. “It really messed me up. It was a hard kind of thing to deal with and that’s when I decided to walk away from Grant [Smith]’s gym. I’ve still got to thank Grant a lot because he’s done a lot for me.

“No fault of Grant’s, I just felt my time had come to an end there and I just needed a new lease of life.”

He moved with his young family to Portugal. “I don’t know if I want to box no more, let’s just go and let’s just take the next step on the journey and see what accumulates,” he thought. “I completely started to hate boxing and I stepped away from it.” He’d been boxing and training hard since he was a 10-year-old child. Now he was burned out.

“You’ve got to act like you’re this big hard tough guy because you don’t want to show no weakness and that. Us boxers are the most mentally f**ked athletes out there and that’s true,” Charlie reflected. “It’s what you put on yourself. The expectation… You put this expectation on yourself and it’s hard to deal with. When things don’t go your way, your mind’s an evil thing and tries to play tricks on you. It really does. It’s a tough sport to be in.

“It takes a toll on your body, massively, and takes a toll on your mind. So no wonder I got to that stage where I was tempted to walk away from it.”
Edwards ended up taking a near three-month break from the sport. But he needed it, to refresh himself mentally and physically. But he couldn’t help thinking, “I’m wasting my potential sitting here. I feel like my calling’s calling me.”

“It helped me get through the mental stress and torture I’d put my brain through for so long. It made me forget about it and it made me okay with what happened to me,” he added.

He’s now linked up with trainer Joe Gallagher, returning to action last month to stop Jacob Barreto inside two rounds. “If it weren’t for him and if it weren’t for that arm round my shoulder, I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to make the decision. Because where I was at confidence-wise was really low,” Charlie said. “I’ve had sports psychology over the last two years to help me get through all the Martinez s**t. I’ve opened up a lot, I’ve had professional help to help me deal with it. That’s probably why coming back, especially teaming up with Joe, getting my confidence back. My last fight, the opponent wasn’t world level, he’s European level and I wiped him out in two rounds.

“For me that was a big statement. It shows a lot of the pain, the hardship, the crazy thoughts I’ve had over the last two years, it all went into that fight and that’s now brought my confidence back. I’m ready to go again.”