Updated: May 20th, 2011 10:40pm
Ray Edwards wins sloppy pro boxing debut by unanimous decision

Ray Edwards wins sloppy pro boxing debut by unanimous decision

by Tom Pelissero
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HINCKLEY, Minn. -- Ray Edwards' professional boxing career began with a victory on Friday night, but the unanimous four-round decision wasn't exactly inspiring.

The defensive end-turned-heavyweight fought through nerves and cramps to beat Duluth's T.J. Gibson at Grand Casino Hinckley with an uneven, unremarkable performance that drew scattered boos from a near-capacity crowd and mild disappointment from his trainer.

"I've got some things to work on, like not having diarrhea all day," Edwards said. "But I think I did well."

On the strength of two knockdowns, Edwards swept the judges' scorecards 40-34, 39-35 and 40-34.

Edwards was all smiles as he walked off, shaking hands with some of his Minnesota Vikings teammates. But a few jeers could be heard, including one call of "Don't quit your day job!" that summed up the crowd's frustration as Edwards settled for a decision against his much smaller foe.

"He could have took the guy out, but it was his first pro fight," said Edwards' trainer, Jeff Warner. "I think he was a little jittery. But at least he kept jabbing. He had him hurt a couple times and he didn't get overanxious. I wish he would have been a little more revved up."

Edwards' next bout is scheduled for June 24 in the same venue against an opponent to be determined.

At 258½ pounds, the 6-foot-5 Edwards had 36½ pounds and about 7 inches on the 5-foot-9 Gibson, who weighed in on Thursday at 222. Both fighters were in their first professional bout, and it showed.

Gibson's best chance was to come out swinging, and that's what he did in Round 1, charging Edwards with a series of wild punches.

"His height advantage did make a difference," Gibson said, "but I came in here to fight."

Edwards responded by landing a series of blows and eventually scoring a knockdown with a right-left combo that propelled Gibson into the ropes.

The next two rounds brought significantly less action. Edwards drew a warning from the referee for shoving Gibson to the ground in the second -- "I actually just tried to turn him, but I forget how strong I am," Edwards said -- and some boos from the crowd when he danced away from his smaller foe in the third.

"He almost threw the guy in the fifth row, and I was like, oh, no," Warner said. "I said, 'This ain't football! You cannot throw people like that!' Other than that, we didn't have no more football flashbacks."

The only other knockdown came in the fourth, when Edwards landed a hook that nearly knocked Gibson through the ropes. But Gibson emerged unscathed, and Edwards failed to finish him off with one last flourish, sending the decision to the judges' scorecards.

"I think he was trying to avoid my punches," Gibson said. "In the first round, he was throwing his jabs out and basically, I was trying to set him up for something, but he kind of figured it out. ... He's a good fighter. He's going to be a great fighter if he keeps it up."

Edwards was loose as he addressed reporters about 2 hours before the fight, saying he had his emotions were the same as "right before a game, just a little butterflies and stuff like that. There might be something unexpected or things going through your head. We'll see how it plays out and hopefully, it plays out in my favor."

The bout took place in the center of large conference hall near the casino. Tickets ranged from $30 to $600, and the room was mostly full by the main event.

Nearly a dozen Vikings players, mostly defensive linemen, were spotted near the ring supporting their teammate.

"He better win," veteran nose tackle Pat Williams said before the bout, "because if he don't, he'll get beat up after the fight, too -- by all of us."

No Vikings coaches or other team officials were seen in attendance, and Edwards -- who has made clear he intends to sign elsewhere if he becomes an unrestricted free agent and would pursue boxing instead if he doesn't -- said before the fight that was OK with him.

"It is what it is," Edwards said. "It's a business, no hard feelings. I still speak to them when I can. Whenever the lockout's over, I'll still have a good relationship with them. They helped me start my career that I dreamed about since I was a little boy."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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In this story: Ray Edwards, Pat Williams