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Referee Joe Cortez held up the arm of Ray Edwards after he was declared the winner of his professional debut Friday night.

Jeff Wheeler, Dml - Star Tribune

BOXING RAY EDWARDS DEF. T.J. GIBSON

Ray Edwards wins debut fight, but it was hardly a crowd-pleaser

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF
  • Star Tribune
  • May 21, 2011 - 2:32 PM

HINCKLEY, MINN. - Fans booed. Others chanted "Overrated! Overrated!"

Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards heard jeers during a tumultuous 2010 season.

And he heard them again as he stumbled through an ugly professional boxing debut Friday night against an undersized opponent at Grand Casino Hinckley.

Edwards scored a unanimous decision (40-34, 39-35, 40-34) over Duluth's T.J. Gibson in the four-round bout, but he didn't win over the crowd.

"I got some things to work on," Edwards said.

He added that diarrhea had bothered him throughout the day and caused him to cramp up in the second round.

There was little meaningful action throughout the bout. Edwards' swim move that tossed Gibson to the mat in the second round was the most intense sequence of the evening.

"This ain't football. You can't throw people like that," said Jeff Warner, Edwards' manager.

In the first round, Edwards, a 6-5, 258-pound athlete, scored a knockdown when he connected on a one-two combo that drove Gibson, a 5-9, 222-pound boxer, into the ropes.

Gibson bounced back in the second round when he connected with a right hand.

"He caught me," Edwards said.

In the fourth round, however, Edwards registered another knockdown with a left hook, sealing the final result.

Edwards said he didn't expect Gibson to be so rough.

"A little rougher than I expected, but I wrestle 300-pound guys all day so I'm used to it, guys trying to be rough," he said.

Gibson didn't resemble the profile of the beefy linemen Edwards faces on Sundays.

Based on appearance alone, few would have pegged the kickboxer/MMA fighter/boxer as Edwards' opponent.

Gibson, a former amateur kickboxing champ, said he turned down a shot at a kickboxing world title to face Edwards, who took up boxing four years ago to stay in shape.

Gibson seemed unmoved by the size, power and potential-to-pummel-another-man disparities before the bout. After the fight, he said Edwards could become a star if he continues to progress.

"I think he'll be a great fighter if he can keep it up," Gibson said.

The bout drew 1,500 or so fight fans -- some sporting Percy Harvin and Jared Allen jerseys. Some of them paid $600 for ringside tables.

Those exclusive seats were mostly occupied by Edwards' Vikings teammates. Antoine Winfield, Fred Evans, Kevin and Pat Williams, E.J. Henderson, Eric Frampton and Tarvaris Jackson attended, along with Jasper Brinkley, Everson Griffen and Fred Evans.

The players mingled, posed for photos, signed autographs and worked the room like they were watching a main event in Las Vegas, not a card 90 minutes north of the Twin Cities.

Pat Williams predicted -- um, demanded -- an Edwards victory.

"He better win, because if he don't he'll get beat up after the fight, too ... by all of us," Williams said.

Edwards swears he's considering a future in the sport and not just toying with another occupation as the NFL lockout persists.

He even said he abstained from sex in the weeks leading up to his bout to preserve his stamina.

His current status in the NFL is in limbo both because of the current lockout and dicey contract situation, but he said he'll weigh his next move as his boxing career progresses.

"It's neck to neck. I love boxing, football and basketball," he said.

There are obvious risks to his pursuit, risks that some of his teammates suggested they wouldn't take.

"I don't want to get hit. I can watch it, but I ain't into taking the licks outside of pads," Kevin Williams said.

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