WOONSOCKET â It takes a lot to get an easygoing person like Joe Gardner angry, but thatâs exactly how the Woonsocket Boxing Club fighter felt on the afternoon of his first main event fight and EBA (Eastern Boxing Association) New England light heavyweight title defense on March 16.
Instead of heading to Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.âs âBoxing At The Royaleâ show in Boston for his much-anticipated eight-round showdown with Lowell, Mass.âs âIrishâ Joey McCreedy, Gardner found himself staying home because the show was abruptly postponed.
âI packed my bags and waited for (trainer) Bob (Moreau) to come get me so we could ride up together,â said Gardner. âAnd then I got a text about a half hour before Bob was coming (at 2:30 p.m.) and (found out) the fight was off, so I called everyone I knew to find out why or if it was even true.
âI guess the Roxy nightclub didnât turn in their application for their permit in time,â he continued. âYou have to do it in 30 days in advance. (CES) could have redone it the following Thursday, but McCreedy, for whatever reason, couldnât be ready.â
Instead of locking himself in his home and sulking, Gardner returned to the WBC and stayed sharp just in case the fight got quickly rescheduled.
He soon received the bad news that the event was eventually cancelled, but last Friday, he got some good news in the form of a chance to fight a former world title challenger at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
The fight is a six-round super middleweight attraction tonight at CESâs sold-out âComing Attractionsâ show at the Fox Theater, and Gardnerâs opponent is Elvin Ayala (21-5-9, 9 KOs) of New Haven, Conn.
Ayala was supposed to battle former world-title challenger Samson Onyango of Newark, N.J., but when Onyango pulled out of the bout earlier last week, the folks at CES found the perfect replacement in Gardner.
âHe fights a lot like me, boxing-style, but he doesnât move quite as much as I do,â Gardner (7-1-1, 1 KO) admitted. âHe kinds of stands in front and throws a lot of punches. Iâll use the same plan as always -- a lot of movement, keep him unsteady on his feet, make him throw his fast punches and not let him sit down and throw power punches at me.â
While this will be Gardnerâs first fight since defeating West Warwickâs Keith Kozlin last November at Twin River for the New England title, Ayala will be back in the ring after his six-round unanimous-decision victory over Mustafah Johnson on Feb. 11 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Prior to that triumph, Ayala had lost three of his last five fights. Two of them resulted in knockouts, including a first-round stoppage at the hands of David Lemieux (22-0, 21 KOs) last summer in Montreal for the vacant WBC (World Boxing Council) International middleweight title.
âHeâs never fought anyone as big as me,â said Gardner. âBoth his knockouts were against really good fighters, but not guys known as huge punchers.â
If Ayala has one significant advantage over Gardner, it could be in the number of his fans that packs the 4,000-seat theater. In each of Gardnerâs four fights last year at the Twin River Event Center, he was backed by a large section of his fans, but that wonât be the case this time around.
âIf Iâm lucky, Iâll have 50 people there,â offered Gardner. âWe got 30 tickets and I know 20 more people who are going to try their luck at the box office. I heard he sold over $20,000 in tickets and tried to buy all the front-row seats. I guess his fans will be loud and close to me.â
The main event and co-feature, which will both be televised live on ESPNâs âFriday Night Fightsâ at 9 p.m., contain two of CESâs undefeated standouts, Philadelphia lightweight âHammerinâ â Hank Lundy (19-0-1, 10 KOs) and Providence super middleweight Vladine Biosse (10-0, 7 KOs).
Lundy will battle Patrick Lopez (20-3, 12 KOs) of Londonderry, N.H., for the vacant NABF (North American Boxing Federation) lightweight title in the 12-round main event, and Biosse will take on Tim Connors (10-2, 7 KOs) of St. Louis in the 10-round super middleweight co-feature.
Gardner is expected to fight Ayala in the late swing fight, and should the co-feature result in a quick stoppage, thereâs an excellent chance that Gardnerâs bout will be broadcast live before the Lundy-Lopez fight.
Local fight fans heading to the show will get an added treat on the undercard, as Pawtucket middleweight and Manfredoâs Gym prospect Thomas Falowo will make his third pro appearance in a four-round test against Antonio Sadler (1-0-1, 1 KO) of Columbia, S.C.
Thanks to knockouts in his previous two fights, Falowo is quickly becoming a fan favorite around southeastern New England. Falowo won his pro debut last November with a punishing second-round TKO of Odias Dumezil and earned a fourth-round stoppage of Greg McCoy on Feb. 4 at Mohegan Sun.