Reginald "Billy" Edwards, a middleweight boxer who under the pseudonym "El Kadir The Terrible Turk" fought in more than 125 fights in the Baltimore-Washington area and the South during the 1920s, died Saturday of natural causes at his Randallstown home.
Mr. Edwards, who was 90, began fighting for pay when he was 13 and fought in many "Battle Royals" at the old New Albert Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore. He took on all challengers in "come one, come all" matches for prize money. He seldom lost.
"It didn't matter how big the other guy was, he whipped them. He had the superior boxing skills over them, and he knew he'd beat them when he stepped into the ring," said Walter Matthews, a longtime local boxing fan.
Because in some areas blacks couldn't fight white boxers in the 1920s and 1930s, Mr. Edwards, a light-skinned black, shaved his head and used the alias "El Kadir The Terrible Turk," professing to be Turkish to fight white boxers.
"That's just what a lot of black fighters had to go through in those days," said Ray H. Leonard Jr., a local boxing enthusiast and past president of the Veteran Boxers Association Inc. "Not only was he a good boxer, but he became a very successful fighter and trainer."
Mr. Edwards won many titles, including the Middleweight Champion of Western Pennsylvania and the Colored Middleweight Champion of the South.
He retired from the ring in the early 1940s, and became a trainer and manager of young boxers. His proteges included Adrian Davis, Chalky Wright, Bee Bee Washington and Goldie Ahern.
"He was a good fight man and a good fighter," said Mack Lewis, a veteran Baltimore fight trainer, manager and promoter. "Me and him stayed in touch a lot over the years. He helped a good many young fighters get fights."
He had more success as a trainer and manager than in the ring.
"He was well-connected in the world of boxing and the person to see in the Baltimore and D.C. area for the big fights," Mr. Leonard said. "I would rate Billy Edwards in the same class as Eddie Futch when it comes to training fighters."
Mr. Edwards was born in Washington. His father was a boxer who died when Mr. Edwards was a teen-ager. Soon after, he left home and took a boxcar to Ohio, where he found a job in a carnival as a boxer.
Any opponent who lasted three rounds in the ring with him won $15.
"You know the carnival wasn't going to lose [any] money, so anyone who climbed in the ring with him was sure to lose," Mr. Matthews said.
He was inducted into the Washington Boxing Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
He married the former Mary Ross, who died in 1943. He married the former Arcola M. Gold in 1945; she died in 1969.
Services were held yesterday.
He is survived by four daughters, Gail Ward and Diane Ferguson, both of Silver Spring, Regina Carson of Randallstown and Linda Williams of Dayton, Ohio; 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Pub Date: 12/13/96