“Coach Breadman is a breath of fresh air in the gym. He has great energy. He is assertive. He’s loud, but not demeaning,” Caleb “Sweethhands” Plant, a former IBF super middleweight champion, says of his new trainer. “He always comes up with new and fresh ideas. He is a scholar of the game and a boxing historian.”
Stephen “Breadman” Edwards is a new age boxing trainer from Philadelphia.
Oh yeah, he teaches the basics, the moves, the jab and the defense, but the 6-3, 46-year-old Edwards is an innovative coach who looks for an edge everywhere.
“I take analysis of all sports,” Edwards says as he prepares the 30-year-old Plant for Saturday’s showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
He faces undefeated two-time super middleweight champion David “El Monstruo Mexicano” Benavidez in a 12-round bout for the WBC interim junior middleweight title (Canelo Alvarez is the true champion) on Showtime PPV. Benavidez (26-0; 23 KOs) has never lost in the ring (more on that below).
“(In baseball) you don’t have to throw everything hard. You throw changeups and fastballs,” says Edwards, married with two children. “No matter how good you are, you’re not going to be perfect over and over again.
“Michael Jordan may hit 60, but he’s not going to hit 60 next night. He can make it to 40, but everyone goes back to earth ”.
Edwards currently trains six fighters, including former 154-pound champion Julian Williams, at the James Shuler Memorial Gym in Philadelphia, teaching them to stay fresh at all times.
“Jim Brown always got up the same way… very slowly,” he recalls of the iconic Hall of Fame running back. “I tell my fighters to stop being so emotional, so demonstrative in the ring. If you act the same all the time, people won’t know if you’re hurt or not.”
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Even coaches have down days and Edwards can deal with it.
“You can have brain fog. It’s a real thing,” she reveals. “I try to go to the gym with a fresh mind. I do a little yoga before going to the gym. I don’t drink the week of the fight. I take it seriously.
“I don’t know if I’m a work in progress, but I have room to improve. You can never acquire too much knowledge.”
Let’s see, he has absorbed knowledge of baseball, basketball, soccer and the mind. She even has a bit of athletic intelligence in him as she coaches his 11-year-old daughter Ava Ray Edwards. She is in the top ten in her age group in Pennsylvania in the 100 and 200 meters and is No. 1 in the country in the 400 meters.
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So who is easier to train, fighters or your daughter?
“It’s so much easier to train my daughter,” she says with a ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ smile. “I raise my daughter. I don’t raise my fighters.”
Being a coach means you wear a lot of hats.
“The dynamic of training a professional fighter is extremely difficult,” he admits. “You are an employee. At any time, you can simply say that I don’t want you to train me anymore. In basketball or soccer, you are an employee of the organization.”
Although the trainer’s responsibility becomes greater as he gets closer to his fighters, there is the factor of elevating the fighter to consider.
“You sign up to train a wrestler and you’re his counselor, his mentor and you become a father figure, a financial adviser, a moral adviser,” he says, reciting jobs that aren’t in the trainer’s job description, but are what is. .
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“You become a dietitian,” he says. “(You) find an accountant, put some money in a 401K, get life insurance for your family. You go through a lot of things you didn’t sign up for.
“I love it, but it’s so much more than just being a boxing trainer.”
Still, he’s not relaxing with his friends. That’s not part of the concert.
“I don’t hang out in gyms,” he says. “I train my guy and immediately, when we’re done, I go out.”
Edwards’ nickname has evolved over time. He had a bit of a game in basketball and was called “Cornbread” after the 1975 movie “Cornbread, Earl and Me” and later abbreviated to “Bread” because he was successful in gambling.
“I was good at it,” he chuckled. “Don’t play as much because I have kids, but I had some great weekends. I got a couple of 14 parlays at 10-1.”
His friends were impressed because Edwards always seems to have money AKA: Pan.
In all seriousness, he has downplayed the game and never gambles on his fights.
“I stay away from the fights I’m involved in,” he says with a stern tone, never toying with his fighters in the ring. “I am not risking anyone’s life. I don’t want to be brave with someone’s health.”
For the bearded Plant (22-1 with 13 KOs) of Ashland, Tennessee, after losing a unification fight against Alvarez via 11th-round stoppage in November 2021, he wanted some fresh ideas.
Benavidez’s fight will be his second with Edwards. In his last fight in October at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Plant stopped former champion Anthony Dirrell in nine.
Edwards joined Plant’s father (Richie) in the corner. Dad did a good job leading his son to the 2011 Golden Gloves title in the light heavyweight division, but Edwards was brought in as head trainer to make Plant a champion again.
“(Coach Breadman) is someone I enjoy talking to about boxing,” says the volume puncher. “There is great chemistry between him, my dad and me.
“I’m a fighter who can adapt on the fly,” admits Plant. “I am capable of doing many things. When he brings new and fresh ideas together with my dad and practices them over and over again, it makes it so much easier.”
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Going up against Benavidez, he’s a power puncher with questions. He has never lost in the ring, but was stripped once for cocaine in his system (2018) and then for missing weight (2020).
You have to question their commitment.
“I don’t know how committed he is, but not as committed as I am,” says Plant, who is married to FOX Sports reporter Jordan Plant and lives in Las Vegas. “I am a person who stays in shape and keeps his weight under control throughout the year. There’s no way he’s going to be more disciplined than me.”
Edwards doesn’t care about Benavidez’s past misjudgments. He only focuses on the present.
“I see it as being the best it has to be for Caleb,” Edwards acknowledges. “I hope that he is 100 percent and that he is going to try to atone for those mistakes.
“I’m preparing for the best David Benavidez that ever lived.”
Look, Coach Breadman has even found use for analysis in mind games.