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WOONSOCKET --- The national spotlight could be on Joe Gardner again.
The Woonsocket Boxing Club fighter and EBA (Eastern Boxing Association) New England light heavyweight champion will step into the ring for his first fight outside New England and on the undercard of Saturday nightâ€™s â€śSuper Six World Boxing Classicâ€ť at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Gardner (7-2-1, 1 KO) will fight super middleweight prospect and 2008 U.S. Olympian Shawn Estrada (11-0, 10 KOs) in a six-round battle that highlights a seven-fight undercard and expects to be the swing bout on the nightâ€™s slate.
The 12-round main event features WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) against former world champion Arthur Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs), and the 10-round co-feature is a heavyweight battle featuring Chris Arreola (30-2, 26 KOs) and Nagy Aguilera (16-5, 11 KOs).
Those two fights will be broadcast live on Showtime at 10 p.m., but if the co-feature ends with an early stoppage, thereâ€™s an excellent chance that Gardner and Estrada will grab some national air time before the main event.
The last time Gardner was in this situation was on April 1 when he was slated to fight Elvin Ayala of New Haven, Conn. in the swing bout of a CES (Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.) show that was being broadcast live on ESPNâ€™s â€śFriday Night Fightsâ€ť at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
When Providenceâ€™s Vladine Biosse knocked out Tim Connors in the opening minute of the fifth round of their co-feature fight, Gardner and Ayala were able to take center stage for their first appearances on ESPN.
But unfortunately for Gardner, he lost that bout when a handful of body shots by Ayala in the third and fourth rounds forced Gardner to quit on the stool and not answer the bell for the fifth.
It was a tough way to debut on national television, but Gardner is anxious to redeem himself and put on an impressive performance against a tough foe this weekend.
â€śIâ€™m pumped,â€ť he noted. â€śThis is the best opportunity I ever got and it works out well. Iâ€™m in great shape. I went back into the gym two days after my last fight. I didnâ€™t take that loss well and I wanted to make up for it and get right back in the ring. I didnâ€™t want to wait until June or July for my next fight.â€ť
Gardner left for the West Coast before 1 p.m. on Wednesday with his trainer, Bob Moreau, and veteran matchmaker Ted Panagiotis, who will also work Gardnerâ€™s corner for the fight.
Panagiotis was actually responsible for throwing Gardnerâ€™s name into the ring when he found out that Estradaâ€™s original opponent, Byron Tyson, backed out of the bout late last week. When Panagiotis proposed the fight to Gardner, he didnâ€™t hesitate to accept it.
â€śTed said itâ€™s a tough fight, but itâ€™s a good name on my resume and a good chance because heâ€™s kind of green,â€ť noted Gardner. â€śHe has a very good pro record, but a lot of the guys that he fought were untested. A couple of guys that he did fight with good records were inactive and hadnâ€™t fought for years.â€ť
Nevertheless, Gardner is entering this fight as an underdog to Estrada, who is nine years younger than him and a fan favorite in the Los Angeles area that is fighting just 20-25 minutes away from his East L.A. residence, but that means very little to him.
â€śI saw a bunch of YouTube videos on him,â€ť offered Gardner. â€śHe looks tough on YouTube. Heâ€™s pretty aggressive, heâ€™s strong, and heâ€™s tall like me, so that will be the tallest fighter I will have fought. But he seems to be a headhunter and kind of predictable, so he should be kind of tailor made (for me).â€ť
Since returning to the ring after his defeat to Ayala, Gardner had been training hard in anticipation of an upcoming fight and working on a couple of aspects of his game that were missing in that loss.
â€śIâ€™ve been throwing a lot more punches because that was my downfall in my last fight,â€ť noted Gardner. â€śI slowed up a little and let (Ayala) get aggressive and I got caught.â€ť
When Gardner lost to Ayala, he feared that he reaggravated a rib injury that he suffered last Nov. 12 in a six-round unanimous-decision victory over West Warwickâ€™s Keith Kozlin at Twin River that earned him the EBA title, but it turns out that his rib was perfectly fine.
â€śI just had the win knocked out of me,â€ť added Gardner. â€ś(Ayala) was a good pro and he just kept picking at it. I could never get my breath back. I fought for two rounds like that and I just couldnâ€™t do it anymore. I couldnâ€™t breathe.
â€śAnd Ayala beat his last opponent (George Armenta last Friday at Foxwoods) the same way. He got him with a hard body shot in the fourth and he quit on the stool. And they were billing (Armenta) as one of his toughest tests, so I donâ€™t feel so bad.â€ť