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Forgotten Warriors: Willie "Sandman" Edwards


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In his heyday, Willie Edwards was a dangerous puncher and a fighter who wasn't faced gladly by anyone. He was avoided by some of the top light heavies of his time, especially after stopping the likes of Matthew Saad Muhammad and Donnie Lalonde. He was famed for his deadly right hand and was pretty fast on his feet. On the downside however-he wasn't equipped with the best chin in the business, like so many other hard hitters. Consequently, he was stopped a couple times by guys he could've beaten. He was a kill or be killed type fighter, which qualifies him as a FORGOTTEN WARRIOR.


He hails from the boxing city of Detroit, where he was born 12 September 1955. According to boxrec, he only had 5 amateur bouts between 1979 and 1980, winning 3 and losing 2. It should however be noted that their amateur section is often incomplete and only consists of the most important bouts of each fighter. Edwards is 5'10 and was never a big light heavy, but his flair and ferocity, as well as his power, made him able to compete with bigger men. He was also always well built, muscular and physically strong. He entered pro ranks in June 1981 and won on points in a 4-rounder, before scoring 9 straight ko's, 4 in the first round. In June 1982, he beat then 16-0 Jeff Lampkin, a noted contender back then, by UD10. In his next fight in August, he won the NABF belt by stopping Dale Grant by KO10. He was now 14-0, but in his next fight, which was also his first defense of the belt, he was surprisingly stopped by Pete McIntyre by TKO5, 3 December at the Superdome in New Orleans. McIntyre had a record of 18-12-1. Sandman Willie avenged the loss next year in June by stopping McIntyre by a corner retirement in 9. On 11 February '84, he faced his first great opponent, the former WBC-champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, who by then was no longer at his best. He still gave Edwards, who was only younger by a year, a good fight before Edwards eventually overpowered him and stopped him by TKO11, after punishing him against the ropes. Saad Muhammad was pissed at the stoppage and as Edwards strutted around the ring victoriously, they got into a brief exchange (with their gloves still on) before the bystanders separated them. He made his second defense of the NABF belt in a draw against David Sears in May, before getting knocked out in 4 by Jim McDonald in February '85. However, this time it was no shame since McDonald was undefeated and a top ranked contender.


Edwards then went to France to fight one of their two best light heavies, Rufino Angulo, and beat him by a 10-round decision in Bordeaux. He would then score his perhaps best victory when he went to Winnipeg in Canada to defend the NABF belt for the third time against Donnie Lalonde, "Golden Boy". Lalonde was 19-1, that one loss a distant points one, and was a rising star with his good looks and lethal power. Lalonde was the better man early on and put Edwards down once in the early going, but Edwards came on strong in the second half and eventually won by a TKO9. Lalonde has stated (to me personally too) that he was never hit like that by anyone else, before or after. He made his two final defenses by beating Anthony Witherspoon (brother of Tim), in a fight where Witherspoon was down once and Edwards twice, and David Sears, both by UD12. He then finally landed a shot at a world title against the IBF champion Bobby Czyz. It was 21 February 1987 at the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantc City when Willie Sandman nearly made a great upset when, at the end of round one, he caught and wobbled Czyz with a right hand which sent him through the ropes. But, the bell rang and saved Czyz from what might've been a devastating loss. Always known as very tough and determined, Czyz bounced back in the second round, while Edwards was cut over the left eye from the champion's punches after round one. The two went right at it and traded but Czyz got the upper hand this time and first hurt Edwards with a left-right, before putting him down with a right. That was it for Sandman Willie, but at least he became the first guy to give Czyz serious problems in a light heavyweight fight. Edwards was back in the ring only 2 months later and beat Tony Morrison by KO5, but then his poor chin got exposed again and he lost his NABF belt after being stopped by 11-0 Tony Willis by TKO4, in June same year.


After another disappointment, Sandman Willie hung his gloves up but came back in 1992, most likely due to money problems. In his first fight, which was at cruiserweight, he beat Chavez Francisco by TKO1, which was rather impressive given his long ring absence. He then went back to 175 and beat James Flowers by KO5 and undefeated Viktor Potehkin by TKO1, before facing Egerton Marcus, a solid contender back then and 10 years his junior, 12 October '93 at Virginia Beach. He was annihilated in 1 round, 63 seconds in all, and after that wisely chose to retire for good. Many things you can make better with a boxer, but chin is not one of them. He left behind a record of 26 wins, scoring 20 ko's and 5 losses, all by ko, with 1 draw.


Since retiring, Willie Edwards fell on hard times and according to a 2011 article, was living in a homeless shelter in Detroit and was said to show early signs of Parkinsons' disease. His former manager Billy Gutz described him as a "sweetheart and a great warrior who had a big heart". Just another victim of his warrior's heart.

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