Edner Cherry has earned a reputation in his 16-year professional career as a rugged competitor who won’t back away from any challenge. But while gaining respect has not been hard for him to achieve in the ring, winning a world title has been.
Cherry, 34, has twice fought for a world championship but was denied both times. The native of the Bahamas, who has long lived in Wauchula, Florida, challenged then-unbeaten Timothy Bradley Jr. at 140 pounds in September 2008 but dropped a wide unanimous decision.
It took Cherry nearly seven years and another weight division to get another title shot. He battled then-unbeaten 130-pound champion Jose Pedraza tough over 12 rounds in October 2015 but ended up on the wrong side of a split decision.
Along the way, Cherry has also defeated former world champions such as Juan Polo Perez and Stevie Johnston, and lost to former two-division titleholder Paulie Malignaggi.
He has remained resilient from the start of his career, though, overcoming an unimpressive record of 3-2-2 though his first seven bouts. He won 10 straight fights (excluding a no contest) in between the losses to Bradley and Pedraza, and earned a 10-round unanimous decision over Lydell Rhodes in his last fight in June.
Now Edner Cherry (35-7-2, 19 KOs) will look to turn away talented 130-pound prospect Omar Douglas (17-1, 12 KOs) on Tuesday night in a 10-round bout that headlines a Premier Boxing Champions Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays card at Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (FS1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
As he neared the end of training camp, Cherry took a break to discuss how it feels to fall just short of achieving his dream, what keeps him going after all these years and which boxer he admires the most.
How frustrating was it to come up empty in your two attempts at winning a world championship?
Both of those fights contributed to my learning experiences. I moved up from lightweight to fight Tim Bradley; when I fought [Pedraza], it just didn’t go my way. I never let either of those fights get me down, though. I just went back to the gym and worked harder.
When I moved up to 140 [to fight Bradley], I could tell the difference. I was so much smaller than him. We had an early weight check and Bradley was around 152, and I was walking around at about 143. On fight night, he was the bigger guy. But throughout my career, including the decision loss to Paulie Malignaggi [in February 2007], I never let them get me down.
I just put them behind me and continue going forward. Other fighters get their first loss, or a title fight doesn’t go their way, and they disappear, drop off the face of the earth, and you never hear from them again. I keep pushing, never give up, don’t quit. What’s on my mind is one day getting that title belt wrapped around my waist.
You outlanded Pedraza by a wide margin (243-to-187, according to CompuBox) in your 130-pound title fight but lost a split decision. Do you believe you won that fight?
Definitely. I threw more punches, landed more punches, and you could see when the decision was announced, the look on Pedraza’s face was one of surprise.
At first, my reaction was like, “I worked so hard for this, how could you just take this away from me?” But there was nothing I could do about it. I can’t go across the ring and take it from him. We asked for a rematch, but they didn’t want any part of us.
What are your thoughts on facing Omar Douglas, who lost his last fight to a former 130-pound world champion in Javier Fortuna?
He was able to drop Fortuna, but Fortuna also rocked him, and Fortuna is not the puncher that I am. He was able to pressure Fortuna at times, but he’s never been in the ring with a tough guy like me.
Omar’s strong and he’ll be in shape coming off a loss, but I’m coming with pressure and more power than he’s seen in the past. We both hit hard and we’re coming to fight, so I think it has the makings of a great fight. If the knockout comes, we’ll take it, but I’m in great shape to beat him up for 10 rounds.
How old were you the first time you put on a pair of boxing gloves and stepped in the ring, and what do you recall about those early days?
I was about 14 years old when I first stepped into the ring in Wauchula, Florida, where I live now. I lost my first amateur fight about three weeks later. I was looking at my coach, telling him I was tired while standing in the middle of the ring, but I started taking boxing seriously after that and won my next fight.
What is it that inspires you to keep going 16 years into your pro career?
I’ve been married for 12 years to my wife, Elizabeth, and we have four kids. My oldest is Christina, and she’s 15. Edner Jr. is 12, Shaun is 9, and James is 7. My boys play football in the fall, basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring.
The youngest likes to come to the gym, have his hands wrapped and do what Daddy does, which is train and bang on the bag. My daughter has cerebral palsy, and she’s wheelchair bound and depends on us to do everything for her. Just seeing her and what she’s going through, it’s not easy.
With the life that she’s living and the things she’s trying to do, we don’t have any excuses in life and that’s what pushes me. I’m fighting for her and for all of my children. They inspire me and they motivate me to keep going, and I want them to know that.
“ I just put [losses] behind me and continue going forward. Other fighters get their first loss, or a title fight doesn’t go their way, and ... you never hear from them again. I keep pushing, never give up, don’t quit. ” Edner Cherry, two-time world title challenger
If you could pick the brain of any fighter in history, who would it be and what would you ask?
I would love to sit down and talk to Evander Holyfield, who is one of the all-time greats. He was a small heavyweight who fought everybody and didn’t dodge people. I would ask him how he beat certain guys and how he was able to remain determined and continue to believe in himself.
Evander Holyfield is an old-school guy who wasn’t about what the guy’s record was or how dangerous a guy was in order to avoid them. He’s a strong-minded, strong-willed guy with heart. I think I could gain a lot of encouragement from him.
Who’s the one fighter in history you wish you could’ve fought?
I would love to get in there with Floyd Mayweather, because when you watch him on TV, you’re like, “I know I can beat him.” But I’m sure like a lot of the guys he’s fought, I would realize it’s different once I got in with him.
I know he’s going to run and box, and I know I’d have to apply a lot of pressure, stay on him and try to throw bombs, but that’s just something I would love to experience, to be in there with a slick fighter like him.
It would be a great fight, his speed against my aggression, and I honestly don’t know how it would go. But it would be a great opportunity for me.
If you had the ability to change your body type, what’s the one weight class you wish you could compete in?
When I was younger, I would watch this guy, “Prince” Naseem Hamed, so I would want to go down to 126 and fight somebody like him. If I could go down to that weight, that’s who it would be against.
Not including yourself, who is the best fighter in your division right now?
Right now, I would say it’s Vasyl Lomachenko. He’s a bad dude, man.
What's it like to land the perfect punch?
I landed the perfect punch in the knockouts of Wes Ferguson in our second fight (sixth-round TKO in December 2007), Stevie Johnston [10th-round KO in May 2008] and the Luis Cruz [ninth-round KO in July 2015.] I was able to land the million-dollar punch in those fights, and I hit all of them hard with both hands.
I beat Wes Ferguson by decision the first time in Tampa, but they thought they could beat me in Las Vegas. Their plan was to hit and run, but my strategy was to stay on him. He stopped in front of me and that was it—dropped him twice in the last round on the left hook. The second time it was lights out, night-night, straight to his back.
It was the same thing with Stevie Johnston, but with the right hand. I knew I was gonna catch him, but it was just timing and placement. When I dropped him the second time, his head hit the canvas and I knew that was it.
When I fought Luis Cruz, he had never been stopped. When I knocked him out in the ninth round, I got him twice with the right hand, too. When I knocked out Johnston, I was on my toes boxing and I caught him with the right hand coming in. I caught Luis Cruz two times on the jaw. The second time it was nighty-night.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
I think my left hook is the money punch, and when I land it, that’s the key. But my right hand is my favorite to throw, because it I land it, it’s going to land hard. I really go in and try to land both of them and duke it out.
What is the one thing about the life of a pro boxer that the public doesn’t understand?
They don’t understand the sacrifices and the workouts we endure for weeks and months. They only see us in the ring, but not the daily grind of preparing for the fight. It’s a job, in and out of the ring. There’s a lot they don’t know.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you want to portray you?
I would say Denzel Washington. I haven’t seen his latest movie, Fences, but he’s a great actor and I’ve admired his roles and who he is as a black man.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
I would say there’s five people I’d like to have dinner with: actress Raven-Symoné, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Rev. Tony Evans.
If you can change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Definitely the most important thing to change is the racism. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or living in poverty, the color issue shouldn’t matter. That’s the most important problem the world’s facing right now. Everyone should be helping each other.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: unbeaten 135-pound contender Alejandro Luna.