WOONSOCKET --- It must have been the beard. Or it must have been the bright blue camouflage shorts.
No, the real reason why Joe Gardner was impressive in winning his super middleweight bout with previously-unbeaten Alex Amparo on Thursday night was that he was a very busy fighter from start to finish and showed zero signs of slowing down.
The Woonsocket Boxing Club super middleweight picked up one of the biggest victories of his career before a packed house on Jimmy Burchfieldâ€™s Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.â€™s â€śThe Pride Is Backâ€ť show at the Twin River Event Center by coming away with a superb six-round unanimous-decision triumph over the Providence prospect and his longtime sparring partner.
Gardner overcame a rough first round and some shaky moments in the third by excelling the rest of the way and capturing the fight by scores of 59-55, 58-56, and 58-56. That raised his record to 10-5-1 and gave him arguably his biggest victory since he captured the USA New England light heavyweight title exactly two years ago in the same building.
â€śAlex hit me with a few grazing power punches and landed more quality blows (in the first round),â€ť said Gardner, who finishes 2012 with a 3-1 mark and is 7-1 in fights against opponents from this state and nearby communities in Massachusetts. â€śEven the punches that I blocked were sending me back off-balance.â€ť
â€śBut I thought in every other round, I was the aggressor. Once in a while, heâ€™d unload with a big combination, but only if I stopped on the ropes. But I was circling in the middle of the ring and getting my jab off, and all he was throwing was wild punches. It seemed like I was taking the rounds fairly easily, and then he was starting to tire because I was landing my body shots.â€ť
Amparo, a light heavyweight prospect who entered the night with a 5-0 (3 KOs) record, agreed to drop down to super middleweight for this fight, as well as reach the 168-pound limit during Thursday afternoonâ€™s weigh-in and a special 175-pound limit before Fridayâ€™s bout. Both corners agreed on the second weigh-in because of Amparoâ€™s history of putting on excess pounds between the weigh-ins and the nights of his fights.
â€śWe both had no trouble making the weight today,â€ť added Gardner. â€śAlex was really good about it the whole time. Heâ€™s a real professional, and heâ€™s still a good friend. We talked backstage after the fight, and thereâ€™s no bad blood. Hopefully we can continue to spar and forget about this.â€ť
While the extra weight loss may have affected Amparo, Gardnerâ€™s stamina clearly played a big part in the fight. As he did in his previous fight six weeks earlier (a split-decision victory back at Twin River over Philip Burnette), Gardner chose not to sit on a stool between rounds, instead opting to stand in his corner while his trainer, Bob Moreau, and cornermen attended to him.
Amparo, meanwhile, used his stool and clearly needed it. He began to show signs of fatigue as early as the close of the second round, and in the latter rounds, he appeared to be spent as he slouched on his stool.
â€śMy legs feel fresher if I donâ€™t sit down,â€ť explained Gardner. â€śBesides, I donâ€™t sit in training, so why should I sit during a fight? When you see someone starting to straighten their legs out and look uncomfortable on their stool, you can tell theyâ€™re tired, but when you see someone standing, you canâ€™t tell.â€ť
With this being the first six-round fight of Amparoâ€™s career, Gardner went into it with a nifty gameplan to have a long six-round bout with Amparo, staying busy with his jabs and movement and then tiring him out at the end with some body shot. The plan worked.
â€śJab and move, jab and move,â€ť added Gardner. â€śI didnâ€™t move as much as I wanted, but as he started to tire, it made it look like I was moving a lot more.â€ť
Another boxer who used his jab and movement and outworked his opponent to nail down a victory was Peter Manfredo Jr., the former International Boxing Organization world middleweight champion who fought in the 10-round super middleweight main event and was returning to the ring after a yearâ€™s retirement.
Manfredo took on a tough customer in Pittsburghâ€™s and delighted his home fans with an unanimous-decision victory that saw him win handily by scores of 100-90, 100-90, 99-91.
Manfredo, who spent seven weeks at Freddie Roachâ€™s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif. to prepare for this fight and shed nearly 20 pounds to get down to 169 1/2 pounds, used his brains as well as his brawn to defeat Saunders (22-19-2, 9 KOs) and raise his record to 38-7 (20 KOs)
â€śThat guy was much bigger and much stronger than me,â€ť said Manfredo. â€śHeâ€™s fought as a light heavyweight his whole career. Heâ€™s fought everybody in the world and only one personâ€™s been able to stop this guy. So I wasnâ€™t planning on stopping this guy. I knew this was going to go 10 (rounds), but I knew I had to box him and be smart, and I made sure I was smart tonight.â€ť
Aside from a menacing right that Saunders landed in the fifth that drew some oohs from the crowd, Manfredo was in charge of this fight.
â€śThe jab was working well, the feigns, movement, everything,â€ť he added. â€śIt was all about being smart tonight and not being a sucker, going in there and trying to be too tough in front of the fans,â€ť said Manfredo. â€ś(Saunders) came to win obviously, and as you could see, he was tough. But again, I was very smart tonight. It might have been a boring fight at times for the fans, but sometimes itâ€™s like that to get a win.â€ť
Those two fights made up 40 percent of Thursday nightâ€™s card, as a couple of bouts fell through over the past week. Pawtucket middleweight Thomas Falowo was unable to pursue his fourth victory of the year, no thanks to a fractured nose he suffered during sparring late last week, and Providence super middleweight Vladine Biosse was reduced to a spectator when his opponent, Dennis Sharpe of Bayonne, N.J., had to return home earlier in the day to tend to a family matter.