Ray Edwards was always the real fighter. Every time his son stepped into the ring he would make his way out of hospital just to watch, before checking himself back in a day later.
He suffered heart disease, kidney failure and required a constant oxygen supply on his walker before he passed away last year. It was worth it to see his son Ben Edwards fight.
Ben Edwards is eyeing bigger things.Credit:Elesa Kurtz
Now Edwards is set to fight without his father for the first time when he headlines Monaro Fight Circuit 29 in a heavyweight mixed martial arts bout against Wallace To'o at the Hellenic Club of Canberra on Saturday.
Edwards isn't sure how he will feel when he sits to have his hands wrapped. But in his late father, his mother June, and his former trainer John Verran, he will have no shortage of inspiration.
"He didn’t say too much, but the thing he was best at… at 99 per cent of my footy games, he was there – and I probably played 400 games of footy. With most of my fights when he was able to health-wise, he was there," Edwards said.
"He never said a whole lot, had his faults in other areas, but as a father, for him to be there for most of my biggest accomplishments was the best thing he ever did for me. That’s a pretty awesome thing.
"He never said nothing, but you could see it on his face, he was proud as punch. He never said things to me about me, but he said things to other people that were really nice, I found out a lot of that stuff after he passed away.
"It was nice to hear how he really felt, even if he didn’t say it to me."
Ray is on Edwards' mind nearly every time he stepped into the ring or the cage. As is his mother June – although she has barely ever seen her son fight in person… "she obviously hates it".
Family has always been his motivation, much like it was when they almost lost their Dunlop home to medical bills in 2015 before selling and downsizing to a townhouse in Charnwood.
Ben Edwards, with his parents, June and Ray, at their Charnwood home in 2015.Credit:Graham Tidy
June will be there this time for what could be Edwards' final fight in Canberra as the heavyweight eyes a deal with the Professional Fighters League.
It will double as a chance to make amends – June hasn't seen her son fight in person since he dropped the Australian heavyweight boxing title to Peter Graham in 2015.
"I was just embarrassed about that whole situation. I wasn’t in the best place with my personal life, I had issues with drugs at the time, and it showed in my performance," Edwards said.
"It was really sad, that was the last fight my dad ever came to as well. It was just a really sad performance, when I was just a shell of what I was only a few months earlier.
"It’s going to be good to run that back and have mum there at the same venue, while I’ve been living a healthy life and training like a professional athlete."
This time Edwards has another family inspiration – a man who wasn't blood-related but "was like a cool uncle you could talk to anything about".
MFC promoter Shane Tipa has dedicated the show to Edwards' former kickboxing trainer, the late John Verran. When Edwards couldn't have conversations with his father, Verran was the man he went to.
"I was living with him when he died, and he died the day before my birthday. I’ll never forget that time, never forget that date, and never forget everything he did for me," Edwards said.
"He was really there during some tough times when I needed a man to confide in. He has been a huge influence on the direction of my life and who I am."
MONARO FIGHT CIRCUIT
Saturday: Monaro Fight Circuit 29 – Ben Edwards v Wallace To'o at the Hellenic Club of Canberra. Tickets from King Ape Supplements.
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