Life, Boxing, and Setbacks: A Glimpse into the Life and Career of Edner Cherry
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: September 28, 2019
SAINT PETERSBURG, FL - The sound of punches hitting the heavy bag surrounded by the smell of sweat usually illuminates the St. Pete Boxing Club in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
On this day a surprise party was set up to celebrate the life and career of Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry (37-7-2, 19 KOs).
The world of boxing is often glamorized as a sport full of rich athletes. Boxing, like many other sports, isn’t black and white, but shades of grey.
Rarely does anyone escape the sport rich and undefeated, many leave the sport having left a piece of themselves behind.
For Edner Cherry, boxing was an escape and opportunity to better his life and the life of his family.
“When we first came here to the United States from the Bahamas, my mom and dad picked and picked,” Cherry stated in an exclusive interview with Frontproof Media. “They’re farmworkers. They worked in orange groves and this and that.
"By watching them and them taking us to the orange field every Saturday, looking at that I thought, I don’t want this, and I don’t want this for my family, I don’t want this for me.
"I’ve been working in the fields since I came here since I was 11-years old. I worked in the fields until I was 18-years old. I had to experience that. I had to live and go out there and work. That’s why I kept boxing back then. It was something that could be life-changing.”
Sometimes it comes as a surprise to many boxing fans that for some boxers, boxing is not their favorite sport.
Cherry’s first influence in boxing came by way of former unified Welterweight champion Keith Thurman’s former trainer Ben Getty who passed away in 2009.
“Boxing wasn’t my favorite sport, but it was something I wanted to do,” said Cherry. “When I started boxing, my favorite fighter was Evander Holyfield because when I was coming up, they would call me ‘Little Holyfield.’
"The first person to call me ‘Little Holyfield’ was Ben Getty. He always called me that, and from there, I started watching Evander Holyfield because he fought everybody, and he worked hard, and that’s why I put 100% in everything I do.”
The St. Pete Boxing Club is well known for producing great fighters such as Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, Ronald “Winky” Wright and most recently Keith Thurman.
Working along with world champions was motivation for Cherry who always envisioned himself as a world champion. For him, there was no better place he could work on his craft to guide him towards his goal.
“Just walking into this gym, you know the fighters that came out of there like Jeff Lacy, Winky Wright, Keith Thurman, and all these other good boxers that came out here,” stated Cherry. “When you’re walking in here, your mindset is to become a world champion. I want my name in the book. I wanted to be just like them or better.
“That was one of my dreams when I first came to join Dan. (Dan Birmingham, current trainer of Keith Thurman). I said I wanted to become a world champion because I knew he trained great fighters. He made champions. He molded them into champions. That was my game. That’s what I wanted, and it’s great to train around these champions and the atmosphere. It makes you work hard.”
At the beginning of Cherry’s career, he plied his trade in the Tampa Bay area fighting a vast majority of his bouts at the now-closed A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa.
The Bahamas native never had anything come easy in boxing. In Cherry’s first seven professional fights he won three fights, lost two close decisions, and had two draws.
As Cherry’s career progressed, he would participate in an IBF Lightweight title eliminator in 2005 against former title challenger Ricky Quiles. Cherry lost an extremely close decision.
After two more victories, Cherry traveled to El Paso, Texas to battle Mexico’s Jose Armando Santa Cruz for the NABF Lightweight title. Once again even with scoring a knockdown on Santa Cruz in the third round, Cherry fell victim to another decision loss.
Boxing fans, in general, take for granted what having the right promoter or connections can do for a boxer. It can lead you in the direction of least resistance or a road full of land mines.
Cherry at times would come into the ring with a chip on his shoulder as fighters who may have been less talented, got more opportunities.
“It’s either I wasn’t in the ring with the right people because they were with the right promoters, the big promoters that could easily pay their way to get them in these big fights and build their records,” said Cherry. “With me I had to start from scratch. I had to fight everybody to make a name for myself. There was no handpicking fights. I had to fight anybody I could get.
“Whatever they presented to me, I had to say yes. If I said no, that was an opportunity that I had lost. Even when I got title fights, it wasn’t in the right weight class. My first title fight was against Timothy Bradley. I had to move up to 140 pounds. He was making the first defense of his title when he fought me.”
In 2007, Cherry moved up in weight from the Lightweight division to take on Paulie Malignaggi in New York in a Super Lightweight bout. Malignaggi won via unanimous decision.
Afterward, Cherry responded with arguably the most significant victory of his career when he faced former two-time WBC Lightweight champion Stevie “Lil’ But Bad” Johnston.
Cherry was able to score a 10th round knockout over Johnston who was far removed from his prime but still a formidable opponent. The bout with Cherry would be the last of Johnston’s career.
Following his fight with Johnston, Cherry was given a world title opportunity against future Hall-of-Famer, Timothy Bradley in September 2008.
Bradley was coming off his first title victory after traveling to the United Kingdom and winning a split decision over local favorite Junior Witter.
To fight Bradley, Cherry had to move up to the Super-Lightweight division. Against Bradley, Cherry fell short losing a wide unanimous decision.
With world title opportunities coming few and far between for Cherry, another setback against a world-class fighter can be devastating.
The added motivation that a fighter’s family can provide can be the difference in a fighter retiring or staying in the sport.
“Every time I wake up, every morning, I see my kids because I see my parents because all they do is farm,” stated Cherry. “I don’t want my kids to be like me. I want better for my kids. I want to provide for my kids. I want to provide for my wife.
“They’re the ones who keep me going. That’s why I was still boxing. That’s why I was still doing it even with the losses. I never give up. I want the world title. I want to make more money to take care of my family and kids; they’re the ones who motivate me."
Following the defeat to Bradley, Cherry went on a ten-fight winning streak with only one bout declared a no contest. Cherry scored victories over world title contenders Vicente Escobedo and Luis Cruz.
The victory over Cruz was big for Cherry as he scored a ninth-round knockout on the undercard of Keith Thurman’s title defense over Luis Collazo at the University of South Florida’s Sundome in July 2015. The bout was also televised live on ESPN and led to one more chance at becoming a world champion.
In October 2015, Cherry would get another title shot, but this time at his preferred weight-class in the Super Featherweight division (130).
Seven years had passed between title shots for the Bahamas native.
Cherry would face off against Cidra, Puerto Rico’s Jose “Sniper” Pedraza for the IBF Super Featherweight championship at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Pedraza was making the first defense of his title and seemed next in line as the next great champion from Puerto Rico.
Cherry had other plans in mind against Pedraza as he seemingly outworked and out-landed the Puerto Rican over twelve rounds.
When the final bell signaled the end of the match, many fans in attendance and those watching the live broadcast thought Cherry had done more than enough to be awarded the world title.
The judges, however, saw a completely different fight as two of the three judges scored the bout 117-111 in favor of Pedraza and one judge scoring the match for Cherry with a score of 116-112.
The split decision defeat to Pedraza was seen as a terrible decision to a vast majority of the boxing community. Many fans and pundits called for an immediate rematch between Cherry and Pedraza; however, one never took place.
Over the next three years, Cherry fought just once each year winning unanimous decisions over Haskell Rhodes, Omar Douglas, and Dennis Galarza.
The bout with Galarza took place in April 2018 and unfortunately would be the final bout of Cherry’s career.
Earlier this year, Cherry was getting ready to face off against Ricardo Nunez with the winner set to take on then WBA Super Featherweight champion, Gervonta Davis.
The events leading up to the bout with Nunez would change Cherry’s life and career for the rest of his life.
“I was getting ready for a fight with Ricardo Nunez who fought Gervonta Davis and was knocked out,” said Cherry. “I was getting ready for that fight I was two weeks out. When you’re in the last two weeks, that last week you want to do everything. During that week, my wife noticed signs. I would come home from the gym and complain about my shoulder. I would be tired.
“Then, on the day it happened, I told her that I wasn’t feeling well, but I still went on to work out because this was a big fight. When you have a big fight, it doesn’t matter. You might feel sick, but you push on.
“My heart just stopped after my workout. My heart stopped for three minutes. I died. There was a nurse there at the gym at Anytime Fitness, and as soon as it happened, she did CPR until the paramedics came. I had to get airlifted to Tampa General. I died for three minutes. That’s like a whole round in the ring.”
It was almost prophetic for Cherry to have his heart stop for three minutes. There is always a level of the unknown and uncertainty when one-steps inside the squared circle. One punch can change a fight entirely.
Cherry and his doctors were unsure of what may have caused his heart to stop.
“I’m a boxer that used natural stuff,” stated Cherry. I wasn’t using whatever other boxers were using. My wife brought all our supplements to the hospital and let the doctor check them, but nothing in there caused it.
“I had two blockages, but they said it wasn’t enough for it stop my heart. They put two stents in, and to this day, we left the hospital knowing nothing. That’s scary when you leave the hospital and don't know anything about what’s going on. It may happen again.
“They said, since we don’t know, we’re going to put in a defibrillator for you in case it happens again. It will shock your heart, and that’s scary. The doctor told me I would know when it will go off because I will start feeling nauseous, I’ll start feeling sick, and that’s when it will kick in.”
At 37 years of age, Cherry’s professional boxing career would come to an end.
In an era where there are multiple champions in each weight class, it’s easy for fans and pundits to dismiss today’s boxers as lesser than when they don’t win world titles.
When boxer’s step inside the ring, they are putting their lives on the line. Moreover, the circumstances outside the ring can impact the direction a fighter heads.
From 2001 to 2018, boxing was a part of almost every facet of Cherry’s life.
For Cherry, the lessons learned from the sport are something that he intends to implement in his future.
“That’s something I don’t want to stop doing,” said Cherry. “The physical part is done, it’s done with. I would love to have the opportunity to give a kid a chance, even if they don’t become a boxer. But it would show them to be a man in life, to be that woman in life, and how to protect themselves.”
Despite never winning a world title, Cherry hangs his gloves up walking away from the sport without any regrets. The new battle for Cherry will be what happens from this point forward.
“No regrets, I think I had a great career,” said Cherry. The only thing that didn’t come with it was the money part. After that, no regrets, everybody might think I’m crazy, but this was the best thing to happen to me.
“What it did, it brought me closer to my family. It brought my walk with God closer. It made me treat people better, love people more because tomorrow is not promised. We can leave the house, and we could never make it back home. It’s crazy to see what people go through in life, whatever situation they go through, they still don’t respect life and themselves. For me, I respect it, and I respect life 100%.”
All boxers at any level, deserve respect and admiration. Words like ‘bum’ and ‘tomato can’ have been used to describe fighters by people who have never stepped inside the ring.
Cherry won’t be fighting in the ring anymore, but his fight isn’t over. Edner Cherry will do what he has always done, and that’s to keep fighting.
“I just want to thank you all for everything,” Cherry stated as a message to all of his fans. “With this medical issue, my heart stopped; now, I can’t continue my boxing career anymore. I just want to thank you all for every second, for every opportunity you have all given me.
“I thank you all for your support 100%, and I just want to thank you all for being there, my family and my fans. The people around the world, every time they see me, they give me a word of encouragement. That just makes me work harder. You all won’t see me in the ring anymore. I’m sorry. It’s something we had to do. We had to call it quits. That’s a decision we had to make. I want to thank you all for all your prayers and everything.”
(Featured Photo: Premier Boxing Champions)