Stephen “Breadman” Edwards: Respect the Grind

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The man behind unified World Super Welterweight Champion Julian Williams is hungry for more as they prepare to face Jeison Rosario in a Philadelphia homecoming bout Saturday, January 18 on FOX.

The faux grin hid the bubbling angst underneath. Stephen “Breadman” Edwards knew he couldn’t ruin this, though he couldn’t let go either. So, he wore the smiling face in the jar by the door and seethed.

Edwards was riding on fumes. He had no sleep, because just days before, his fighter, his guy, Julian Williams, was stopped in the fifth round by Jermall Charlo. The sullen fatigue wouldn’t allow him to escape his second-guessing: The constant self-reflection of what he could have done better to help Williams, and what he could have done better to help himself?

He was in no mood to be in Disney World, but it was a prearranged vacation for the family to get out of Philadelphia’s December chill and take his two children, then relentless four- and five-year-olds, tugging their dad everywhere.

He got through it.

Fast forward three years.

Again, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards is riding on fumes.  He had no sleep, because the day before, his fighter, his guy, Julian Williams, won the fight of his life, beating Jarrett Hurd for the WBA and IBF world super welterweight titles at the EagleBank Arena, in Fairfax, Virginia.

Edwards wouldn’t allow himself to sleep. The fatigue came with a soothing contentment and the grin on his face hid the bubbling angst underneath, “Where the hell is that damned Lyft to take us to the train?”

Win or lose, Edwards is remarkable consistent. It’s a strength of his, and a reason why through the years he and Williams have built one of the strongest trainer-fighter bonds in boxing today.

They’ve grown together. They’ve learned to trust one another and made names for themselves in a sport that eats its young before they learn how to crawl. Boxing brand names are often built by fighters themselves, especially if they enter the pro ranks without a special pedigree. Williams certainly didn’t have one, and neither did the old-school trainer, Edwards.

Respect had to be earned.

Edwards wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

He learned and found a passion for boxing watching fights in the 1980s with his maternal grandfather, Stanley Edwards Sr., a Korean War veteran who saw Sugar Ray Robinson beat Kid Gavilan in Philadelphia on a sweltering July night in 1949.

“Breadman” began poking around local gyms, picking up a little here and a little there from old grandmasters, like Virgil Hunter and Naazim Richardson. They instilled the importance of a positive attitude and how to take his fighter from round-to-round. But, mostly, Edwards taught himself how to train a fighter, taking notes he’s filled in a copybook since 2013.

The only thing missing was a fighter.

Beating Jarrett Hurd won’t be the crowning moment of Julian’s career. Trainer - Stephen "Breadman" Edwards

Then, as often happens with stories like Edwards’, he happened to meet a rising, skinny kid from Philly named Julian Williams. The two can even pinpoint when they met—at the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton pay-per-view party Edwards was hosting on December 8, 2007. Edwards was intrigued by what Williams had to say about his goals and where he wanted to take boxing, and Williams liked some of Edwards’ ideas regarding conditioning and nutrition.

A friendship morphed into a partnership.

They bicker and challenge each other like an old married couple—but no one will come between them and no one can dispute the results. Williams is low key and private. When he’s training for a fight, he’s training for a fight. Everyone gets out of the way. Edwards sees to that. He serves as “J-Rock’s” deflector and insulator.

“I like the fact that it’s just us, me, Steve and (co-trainer) Aasim Beyah. It’s our team,” Williams said. “One of Steve’s strengths is how extremely optimistic he is about everything. Through the years, that’s rubbed off on me, because, to be honest, I wasn’t always the optimistic one. In time, I started to think the way Steve thinks.

“We both have the same attitude, too. No one was going to give us any breaks. We both have chips on our shoulders. Steve will say something about it. I’m more satisfied with just fighting. But when we beat Hurd in May, there was no big press conference. We had to track down a Lyft to take us back to the hotel.”

Said Edwards, “I didn’t even sleep on the train on the way back home. I was so energized, I didn’t sleep for days after Julian beat Hurd. I mean, I even had my uncle come out against us in the Hurd fight. My uncle made up a fake Twitter account, trolling me and Julian and he never met Julian before. My kids teased me after the Hurd fight that I hugged Julian, and I’m not a very affectionate guy. I was tired of so many people judging us off the Charlo fight.

“This was like giving everyone a big middle finger.”

Now, Edwards and Williams have a new goal: Exceeding what they’ve done.

“You saw the way Andy Ruiz treated the heavyweight championship of the world, and it’s a mistake Julian won’t make,” Edwards said. “I don’t want Julian to fall into that trap that this is it. We’re not living off of that Hurd performance (a 2019 Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of the Year candidate). We’re moving on.

“It’s all about living in the present—not in the past. We value what we’ve done. We’re going to do more. Beating Jarrett Hurd won’t be the crowning moment of Julian’s career. The Riddick Bowe that beat Evander Holyfield twice we never saw again. You’ll see a better Julian Williams.”

Win or lose, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards is remarkable consistent.

That will never change.

For a closer look at Julian Williams, check out his fighter page.

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