Edvin Barros' took the road less traveled in finding his way to the world of boxing. The Brazilian had only four amateur fights when he came to the U.S. in 2003. Now 30 years old, Barros first laced up his gloves as a professional in 2004. What Barros does have going for him is that he is an extraordinary athlete, proficient in mixed martial arts, and an expert practitioner of a little known Afro-Brazilian art form called Capoeira, which combines movement from martial arts, games and dance. It utilizes fluid acrobatic movement, feints and extensive use of sweeps, kicks and head butts. Barros lives and trains out of Boca Raton, where he also teaches boxing, Capoeira and mixed martial arts three days a week. He has a deceptively poor 9-6-1 record, but all six of those losses came to boxers with a combined record of 84-7, including former world champion Luis Collazo. With his parents and brother still in Brazil, Barros is fighting for their lives, sending money home every month while pursuing his goal as a world champion.
In Episode One you said you send money home to Brazil to protect your family. Protect them from what?
I send money every week because my father is 62 and can't work anymore. My mother is 65 and has an infection in her whole body. My brother lost his job and can't find a new one. I give them food, pay all their bills, electrical and medical.
Life in Boca Raton must be very different from how you lived in Brazil. What are some of the main changes?
It was very tough to survive when I first got here. Then I got my manager John Barr. He pays me every month $1,300. I had never seen money like that before. He gave me a house and a car, and paid all the bills. But I forgot about the gift that he was giving me and started drinking and going to clubs. What made me stop was my father was addicted to alcohol, and my uncle died of it in 1996. I did not want to be like that. I said to myself if God gave me the chance to continue for my dream why should I drink and do things that weren't good for me.
Were you surprised when you were approached to be on Ring Life?
I'm never surprised by anything. My manager put my name in with the Contender, and somebody there wanted to put me on the program but they couldn't because I am not a citizen. I feel real comfortable with cameras because in 2004 I put on a big show of Capoeira for 5,000 people.
You practice three different things every day, boxing, Capoeira and mixed martial arts. Why do all three and not just concentrate on boxing?
My whole life I have trained in Muay Thai and Capoeira. I focus on boxing more now because I need the money. If I had another opportunity besides boxing I would take it. Boxing is a really, really dirty sport. People don't care about you in boxing. Practicing all three makes me a better boxer. If you saw tape of my first professional fight and tape of me now, you would see how big a change I have made. In the beginning, I fought only as a warrior. But now I can fight as a warrior and box, too.
You have lost seven times in 16 fights, yet six of those losses were to fighters with a combined record of 90-8, including former world champion Luis Collazo. Why don't you fight less accomplished boxers until you are ready for better ones?
I take the fights with big names because I know God is going to give me the opportunity one day to win. If I win, it will change my position in boxing and I will make more money. The tougher fights pay me much better. If I had the support of a promoter I could fight easier opponents and build my record. When people look at my record, they underestimate me. But I know I can kill them. Next month I am fighting a guy who is 13-1 at the Hard Rock Casino in Florida.
Was it intimidating to face a former world champion and current top 10 fighter in just your fifteenth bout?
No. I am not intimidated by anyone. I respect boxers who are ranked, but my experience in life is more than my opponent's. With Collazo, I tried to get to him but he ran a lot. A lot of people are going to be surprised about me when I find my way in boxing. Also, I have sparred with Miguel Cotto when he was to fight Paulie Malignaggi (in 2006). I dropped Miguel Cotto. I tell everybody I am a world champion in life, and that means more to me. It doesn't matter to me if I am fighting Antonio Margarito or Cotto, I will never be scared. Everybody is just a person. In Brazil, I had real fights in mixed martial arts and Capoeira, and there was real danger.
"I take the fights with big names because I know God is going to give me the opportunity one day to win. If I win, it will change my position in boxing and I will make more money. The tougher fights pay me much better."
When you got to the U.S. from Brazil, you said in Episode One that you struggled very hard to survive. Tell me about that.
It was hard until I got my manager. He pays me every month $1,300. I had never seen money like that before. He gave me a house and a car, and paid all the bills. But I forgot about the gift that he was giving me and started drinking and going to clubs. What made me stop was my father was addicted to alcohol, and my uncle died of it in 1996. I did not want to be like that. I said to myself if God gave me the chance to continue for my dream why should I drink and do things that weren't good for me.
What kind of people are in the classes you teach?
I get all kinds. I have a man who is 76, and boys who are 12 and 19. I make them do exercises in Capoeira, boxing and mixed martial arts. For them it is a way to get in shape and be healthy. They aren't trying to be professionals. I have one guy 20 years old who has cerebral palsy. He lifts weights a little and does pushups, and I put him on the bicycle. He loves boxing. When he punches the bag I stand behind him and hold him by the hips to keep him steady. Helping someone like that is more important to me than boxing.
You want to be a world champion. Why do you think you can do that, considering how often you lose and your late arrival to boxing?
I am confident I can do it because I know if I take the right fight at the right moment, I know inside I can win the fight. But people tell me you need to stop the boxing, let go of your dream and open up a gym. It doesn't matter to me about the losses, whether they are 10 or 15. If people give me the chance, I can do it.
Who trains you?
Anthony Ham. I trained for a year with Buddy McGirt in Vero Beach. But it was a two and a half hour drive each way and was too much time. Buddy is a great trainer and a good person. I love him. I call him sometimes and his son Buddy Jr. too. I wish Buddy McGirt was my father.
What are you goals in life and how do you think you will accomplish them?
What I want most in life is to be together with my family. Someday I am going back to Brazil. The goal I have is to give food and clothing to people. If I make big money I want to have a foundation that helps people. That is my goal. I am so happy when I can help somebody. I am about one thing: life and love. Some boxers try to impress people by having a lot of women, nice cars. But I don't need to impress anybody except myself and my God. Next year I am going to manage my time so I have free time to work as a volunteer in a hospital. I am not trying to be different than other fighters, I am trying to be right, a correct person.
December 15, 2008