WOONSOCKET — It takes a lot to get an easygoing person like Joe Gardner angry, but that’s 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.’s “Boxing At The Royale” show in Boston for his much-anticipated eight-round showdown with Lowell, Mass.’s “Irish” Joey McCreedy, Gardner found himself staying home because the show was abruptly postponed.
“I packed my bags and waited for (trainer) Bob (Moreau) to come get me so we could ride up together,” said Gardner. “And 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.
“I guess the Roxy nightclub didn’t turn in their application for their permit in time,” he continued. “You have to do it in 30 days in advance. (CES) could have redone it the following Thursday, but McCreedy, for whatever reason, couldn’t be ready.”
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 CES’s sold-out “Coming Attractions” show at the Fox Theater, and Gardner’s 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.
“He fights a lot like me, boxing-style, but he doesn’t move quite as much as I do,” Gardner (7-1-1, 1 KO) admitted. “He kinds of stands in front and throws a lot of punches. I’ll 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.”
While this will be Gardner’s first fight since defeating West Warwick’s 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.
“He’s never fought anyone as big as me,” said Gardner. “Both his knockouts were against really good fighters, but not guys known as huge punchers.”
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 Gardner’s four fights last year at the Twin River Event Center, he was backed by a large section of his fans, but that won’t be the case this time around.
“If I’m lucky, I’ll have 50 people there,” offered Gardner. “We 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.”
The main event and co-feature, which will both be televised live on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” at 9 p.m., contain two of CES’s undefeated standouts, Philadelphia lightweight “Hammerin’ ” 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, there’s an excellent chance that Gardner’s 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 Manfredo’s 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.