WOONSOCKET --- You will have to forgive Joe Gardner if he’s been a little antsy this winter.
After fighting four times during a seven-month span last year and winning the EBA (Eastern Boxing Association) New England light heavyweight title last November, the Woonsocket Boxing Club fighter has gone the last four months without a bout.
“I’m not used to this,” added Gardner. “It’s been longer than I expected. I’ve been itching for a fight and I was hoping to jump in there right away.”
But Gardner knows his wait won’t be long.
He will defend his championship on Wednesday, March 16, when he takes on former EBA champion “Irish” Joey McCreedy in the eight-round main event of Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.’s “Boxing At The Royale” show in Boston.
Gardner, who returned to boxing last spring following a 6½-year hiatus from the sport, will experience a few ‘firsts’ in his career that have definitely got his juices flowing. This will not only be his first title defense, but it will also be his first eight-round fight.
It will also be his first bout against a trash-talking opponent. In a recent press release by CES, McCreedy shared his feelings about Gardner and their upcoming fight.
“I’m not planning on this fight going past the third round,” McCreedy said in the release. “I’m ending the night early. I’m making a statement. Everyone thinks this is a stepping-stone fight for Joe Gardner. No. This is the beginning of a new career for Joey McCreedy.”
And McCreedy didn’t stop there.
“I respect Joe as a fighter, but I don’t know what his team is thinking taking this fight,” he added. “They probably think this is a good stepping-stone fight because I have five losses, but I lost five fights to top prospects.
“I saw [Gardner] fight. I wasn’t impressed at all. He jabs a lot – jab and hold, jab and hold, jab and hold. He doesn’t throw the right hand. He won’t hit me with a jab once. The head movement will be there.”
Gardner, who has always been content to let his hands, not his mouth, do his fighting, could only smile and chuckle when he got wind of those comments, as well some additional barbs on Facebook.
“It sounds like he's working more on his talking than his jabbing,” Gardner added. “I know Joe's a strong fighter, but I’ve trained for a busy eight-round fight, so if he really believes this will be an early night, he's sadly mistaken.”
In the press release, McCreedy, who hails from Lowell, Mass. and is trained by former wold champion “Irish” Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund from “The Fighter” fame, also said that he put on 15 pounds of extra muscle and changed his fighting style, even throwing a jab into his repertoire, and those comments raised Gardner’s eyebrows.
“It's funny that he says he’s put on 15 pounds of muscle,” Gardner reported. “Wouldn't that make him like 12 pounds overweight? And it also takes years and several fights to completely alter the way you fight. There’s no way he’s going to change (the way he fights) in one fight.”
Gardner (7-1-1, 1 KO) and McCreedy (11-5-2, 6 KOs) are very familiar with each other, having fought in separate bouts on two Twin River cards last year and seeing each other in action when they weren’t in action.
“I’ve seen probably his last 10 fights,” said Gardner. “Joey’s a tough guy and he’s always in good shape, but he’s kind of tailor made for what I do. I like to stay on the outside, land my shots, and fight smart.”
Both boxers have also experienced long layoffs during their careers, but while McCreedy’s lasted 15 months (Oct. 2006 to Jan. 2008), Gardner’s went from Halloween night, 2003 to his comeback fight last May 7 with unbeaten Providence fighter Vladine Biosse, who beat him with a four-round unanimous decision.
But Gardner came back in July to post a four-round majority decision victory over Louisiana native DeMarcus Clark, and after he seized his first six-round fight in July with a unanimous-decision triumph over New Bedford’s Eric Pinaretta, he was again a six-round unanimous winner over West Warwick’s Keith Kozlin in his EBA title fight.
Unlike that fight with Kozlin, Gardner’s fight with McCreedy is scheduled for eight rounds, and the Woonsocket fighter is amped for the two extra rounds.
“I feel like I’m in great shape,” Gardner said with a grin. “I’ve been sparring eight rounds all winter long and I’m definitely ready. I’ve fought six rounders last year, but in both of them, I’ve had more than enough gas to finish.”
As for fighting in Boston, this will be Gardner’s second time appearing in a event in Massachusetts’s capitol. In his third pro fight, a four-rounder against Richard Zola at the recreation center of St. Leonard’s Church, Gardner was a unanimous-decision winner.
The loyal legion of fans that packed the Twin River Event Center and supported Gardner for all four of his fights last year will now have to make a hour drive to Boston, but Gardner doesn’t think the long trip will deter many of his fans from packing The Royale on fight night.
“I grew up in Mass. too,” offered Gardner. “I went to Milford High and I spent a lot of my teen years in Boston when my buddies went to college up there. I’ll have my fans there and Joey will have his (fans) from Lowell.”
While the main event is sure to whet the appetite of local fight fans, so will the six-round co-feature, which features the highly-anticipated rubber match between Pawtucket’s Eddie Soto (12-2, 4 KOs) and Lowell’s Sean Eklund (8-4, 1 KO), the EBA New England lightweight champion who is trained by his uncles, Ward and Dicky Eklund.
In their first bout, on Feb. 6, 2009 at Twin River, Soto overcame dehydration and two knockdowns to score a controversial six-round split-decision victory over Eklund and win the EBA New England lightweight title.
But in the rematch last March 19 at Twin River, Eklund handed Soto his first pro defeat and won the title from him with an unanimous-decision victory.
Soto will be fighting for the first time since July 30 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., when in his first main event fight, he suffered a fourth-round TKO to unbeaten Mike Faragon (13-0).
Eklund went almost 11 months without a fight since his last victory over Soto, but he fought a four-rounder earlier last month at the Mohegan Sun Arena and handily defeated Noel Garcia via unanimous decision.
Tickets for “Boxing At The Royale,” which is located on 279 Tremont St., are $40, $50 (ringside), and $75 (stage seating for groups of 10 only) and can be purchased by calling CES at 724-2253/2254 or visiting the web site at www.cesboxing.com . The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first bout is scheduled for 7 p.m.