“It's crazy how people just care about you when you're in that ring, and they care about you when you're bleeding. But once you step out of that ring, Stallion, it's like you’re ancient history.” —Apollo Creed, in Rocky IV
A boxer's journey isn't guaranteed to have a happy ending. Like life, the sport is filled with good people who lose, and evil people who prosper. It isn't fair and wasn't meant to be fair.
It's in the gym, training, that you leave a piece of yourself. You surround yourself with other fighters to push you and build a cathexis of discipline to withstand more than most. It's where you learn how to die. And accept your fate.
It was at a boxing gym over four years ago that I spoke with Edner Cherry (37-7-1, 19 KOs). That day at the St. Pete Boxing Club was joyful and melancholy.
Friends and family gathered to wish Cherry aka Cherry Bomb all the best in his future endeavors. I wrote about it on Medium.
Cherry Boxing Since Age 14
Boxing had been part of his life since the Bahamas native was 14 years old, and in an unforeseen instant, it was over.
For those unaware, Edner Cherry was forced into an early retirement in 2019.
While in training for a bout with Ricardo Nunez that would have potentially led to another title opportunity, maybe against Gervonta Davis, there were signs that something was amiss.
Cherry's spouse noticed that he was more fatigued than usual when coming home from training, and he felt an unusual amount of shoulder pain.
It's not uncommon for fighters to push themselves and ignore pain; that is the temperament built over years of sacrifice that is pugilism.
While training at a local Anytime Fitness, Edner Cherry suffered a heart attack after his workout.
Fortunately for Edner Cherry, there was a nurse at the gym who was able to perform CPR on him. He was then airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. His heart stopped for three minutes. One round.
Now Cherry has an ICD (Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) in his chest along with two stents in his heart.
The doctors and Cherry still don't know the exact cause of the heart attack.
It's been said that the deadliest blows are the ones you don't see coming. For someone like Edner Cherry, who prided himself on always being ready and staying in shape, his heart stopping was something he couldn't have foreseen.
Transitioning from warrior to citizen is difficult for those who have made stepping into a squared circle a common occurrence.
But, when the ending is out of your control, it can be much more strenuous. It leaves more questions than answers.
“Being honest, yes, it is,” Edner Cherry expressed when asked about the difficulty of retirement in an interview with NY Fights.
Edner Cherry Tells NYF That Vocation Switch Not Easy
“When you're used to doing something all your life, just remember I was doing this when I was 14 years old, and up to 2019. It ended for me,” Cherry said. “It changed a whole lot, man. Even when I sit back and look at the fights, there are times I would sit down, then it'll run through my mind like, ‘I can't even fight no more.' And it's like, man. It hurts.”
The current landscape of boxing, which has more world titles available than ever, can give fans and pundits a false impression of how toilsome the road to becoming a world champion can be for some fighters.
Talent and the willingness to always stay prepared all play factors, but the difference between traveling on a golden path and one filled with potholes can be based on the promotion behind you.
Cherry never had an easy ride to a title.
He had to fluctuate between fighting at super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight to gain fights.
His first world title opportunity came against Timothy Bradley, where he lost a unanimous decision in 2008.
Setbacks were frequent for Cherry, who started his career with two losses and two draws, along with defeats in title eliminators and for minor titles against Ricky Quiles, Jose Armando Santa Cruz, and Paulie Malignaggi.
However, Cherry's fortitude was forged at the St. Pete Boxing Club, which played home to fighters like Ronald “Winky” Wright, who was familiar with dealing with misfortunes and responding to them.
“For me, coming up, just remember I started from scratch,” says Edner Cherry. “I didn't have it the easy way. Even you could see that when I fought my first world title as a challenger, I fought Timothy Bradley.
“Which was the wrong weight class for me. I had to go back to the drawing board. But you have a lot of fighters that come back from that. For me, man, I know where I came from. I know how hard I work. And then you got these other fighters, they're being handpicked and this and that. Everything is given to them. And it's like for me, whatever it takes, I'm going to go back, and I'm going to go and put myself back into that title shot, and whoever I need to fight, I'll do it.
Edner Cherry continued, “I always put myself back in that position from a loss. When I lost against Ricky Quiles. When I lost against Santa Cruz. When you look at the losses I had, I went back and worked hard. I work hard to get myself back into that position. You got some fighters that one loss, it's like they are done. It's like you don't hear from them. While they are winning, you hear from them. But that one loss, like, man, what happened?”
Al Haymon is one of the more divisive figures in boxing; some see the lack of appearances by the reclusive manager as a figurehead who only has business as a focus, and others view it as a form of straying away from being held accountable.
For fighters, especially those who don't have a significant fanbase, signing with the former concert promoter signifies a change in opportunity and paychecks.
“The opportunity was coming,” claimed the former super featherweight contender. “It was there. And when the door opened for me, it was when I signed with Al Haymon. That's when Al Haymon was looking out for me. Then I could tell the difference in the pay, and he was paying really well. When I was with Starfight Productions, I was among these great fighters and thought, ‘Why am I not getting the pay I'm supposed to get?' And when you don't have anybody looking out for you, and you sign with small promoters, that's what happens.”
But of course, fighters who fight under Haymon receive higher paydays, but not every fighter is equal. Those who can provide a larger financial sum for their promoters are treated with more affection, right?
Others have a frontstage and backstage relationship. On the front stage, some are given chances at world titles and used as utility players if they can be relied upon.
On the backstage, once you are no longer useful, any link or connection is ended. That can be the brutal truth in any sort of come-down-from-a-high position, in boxing and beyond, let’s be honest.
When Edner Cherry suffered the heart attack that ended his boxing career at 37, it was also the end of any relationship with his former promoters.
Since retiring, Cherry says he hasn't heard from any of his former promoters or managers. No one has reached out to see how he and his family are doing or to offer any condolences?
“No, not at all,” Edner Cherry stated. “No. No, sir. Not at all, man. I haven't heard from them. They all got my contact. They have my social media. That's how you can get in contact with everybody. But no, there wasn't anybody…it's always hearing it from somebody else's mouth.
“But I never heard from the team, from the rest of the people. I have close contact with the team at St. Pete, and once in a while, I will hit them up and this and that, but a former promoter and all that kind of stuff, there was nobody.”
A boxer's life for all but the one percent at the top of the sport who earns millions on each outing is divergent from many other professional athletes.
Plenty of fighters take on secondary jobs while fighting professionally; it isn't anything out of the ordinary.
The goal is to one day leave that job for good.
Before his career ended, Edner Cherry worked part-time at a warehouse for Wal-Mart.
Unable to physically continue working in the warehouse, Cherry now works security for Allied Universal and does side home remodeling jobs. It isn't exactly the position that Edner Cherry thought he would be in when his career ended, but it's a reality he has accepted.
There Was No Financial Nest Egg
“The only thing that didn't come with it, is the money,” Cherry said, reflecting on his career. “So now I put myself in a place…you have fighters that made it, made all of the money, and they are retired. And you have one's that retired and they made it in boxing now. Later on, they end up getting a job. So now they have to go back to work. So I'm that one type of boxer. I'm done. Well, now I got to go ahead and find me a job.”
One ponders what goes through the mind of a fighter who had his career taken away from underneath them. All the miles ran, all the rounds sparred, all the punches on the heavy bag, what are they worth now?
“It hurts when I think about my career sometimes,” says the ex contender. “Then I have to bring myself back. I'm like, ‘Ed, you're done. It's not your fault.' Things happen, and you have just to live with it, whatever happens.”
Despite any regrets or the feeling of having unfinished business in the squared circle, what keeps Edner Cherry moving forward is his family.
He is a devoted married man who considers himself a father of seven because he does count his pets.
“Seven kids because I have four kids and three pets,” Cherry excitedly stated. “So yeah, I included two cats, one dog, and four kids, my wife, and that's our family right there, man.”
With a few years of having boxing behind him, the new battle for Edner Cherry will be finding something that can replace the sport that encompassed so much of his life.
There are fighters that live on in the hearts and minds of fans long after they've finished fighting, but in the end, what is most important is what your loved ones remember. The question becomes, can you find happiness outside of boxing?
“Are you happy?” I asked Edner Cherry.
“When the career is done, if you're not stable, you got to go back to work,” Cherry says. “You got to make ends meet, but that's part of life. But after that, man I've enjoyed life and at the same time, I'm happy, man. I'm happy at the same time.”