WOONSOCKET — A rematch with Alex Amparo on Friday night at the Twin River Event Center would have been a good enough reason for Joe Gardner’s loyal fans to throw down their hard-earned money at the box office and see their favorite fighter in action.
Unfortunately, Amparo bowed out of the fight a few weeks ago, but the folks at Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc. found the perfect replacement to oppose Gardner.
Woonsocket’s other super middleweight, Reynaldo Rodriguez.
The two fighters, who had been training partners for the past few years at the Woonsocket Boxing Club, will face each other in a high-octane intracity showdown on the “Unfinished Business” card’s six-round special attraction that’s sure to draw plenty buzz around the city and beyond.
Gardner, who is 10-5-1 and coming off last Nov. 29’s impressive six-round unanimous-decision triumph over Amparo, a previously-unbeaten prospect from Providence, owns a 7-1 mark against opponents who hail from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, and he’d like to add another win to it against an opponent he’s the most familiar with.
“(CES) asked me if I wouldn’t mind fighting Rey,” noted Gardner. “He was supposed to fight somewhere [last week] but it got cancelled. so he was free to fight me. They had offered this fight to us a few times before, but neither of us wanted to do it because we were training at the same gym, but now we’re not.”
Rodriguez (6-5-1, 3 KOs), who attended Gardner’s bout against Amparo, left the Woonsocket Boxing Club late last summer and is currently training in a gym he constructed in the basement of his house. “I heard rumors he’s been sparring at Manfredo’s Gym, but I’m not positive,” added Gardner.
This isn’t the first time Gardner is fighting a training partner. He had sparred with West Warwick’s Keith Kozlin before Gardner beat him on Nov. 12, 2010 for the New England light heavyweight title, and he did the same with Amparo, and another Providence product, New England super middleweight champion Vladine Biosse.
“I like Rey,” said Gardner. “I don’t like fighting friends, because someone always ends up with hard feelings, usually the loser. I have a really good record against people I know. Except for Vlad, I’m undefeated against them.
“The last time I saw Rey, I talked to him after the (Amparo) fight in the crowd. We get along very well. It’s not like there’s bad blood between us because there isn’t any.”
There won’t be any secrets when Gardner and Rodriguez, who had trained under the same roof for nearly two years, step into the ring on Friday. Gardner says he knows what to expect from Rodriguez, and he said Rodriguez knows what he brings to the table.
“He’s fought some tough, tough guys,” Gardner said of Rodriguez, who enters the fight with three straight losses. “He’s fast and he boxes very well. I need to fight my fight, the same fight I fought against Alex. A lot of boxing, a lot of movement.”
Unfortunately for Gardner, he won’t have his trainer, Bob Moreau, in his corner because the Woonsocket city councilman recently underwent open heart surgery. But working Gardner’s corner with be veteran trainer Jose Santos from 401 Boxing in Cranston, who ironically, worked Amparo’s corner in last November’s fight.
“I’m still doing my thing at the Woonsocket Boxing Club, but I go to 401 here and there,” added Gardner. “I just hooked up with Jose and I sparred a good kid who just won the Golden Gloves, Randy Gomes. He’s a tough, young kid who’s tall and busy and fights a lot like Rey. Things are going good and I’ll be ready for the fight.”
Another fight on the undercard that should also attract the attention of local fight fans is the six-round middleweight bout pitting Pawtucket’s Thomas Falowo (8-1, 6 KOs) of Manfredo’s Gym against Boston’s Julio Garcia (6-3, 3 KOs). who is trained by former heavyweight world champion John Ruiz.
The main event is a 10-round super middleweight showdown between Providence’s Peter Manfredo Jr. (38-7, 20 KOs) and Seattle’s Walter Wright (14-3, 7 KOs), who are both Contender series alumni. Manfredo was originally scheduled to fight crosstown rival Joe Spina in a rematch of their heated 2006 brawl, a third-round TKO by Manfredo, but Spina was forced to bow out of the fight last month.
Manfredo’s last fight was also on Nov. 29 at Twin River and was his first since ending a year-long retirement. He recorded a 10-round unanimous decision victory over Pittsburgh’s Rayco Saunders.
Tickets for the show are priced at $40, $60, $100, and $150 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling CES at 401-724-2253/2254, going online at www.shop.cesboxing.com  or www.twinriver.com , or visiting the Players Club booth at Twin River or any TicketMaster location.
The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first bout is scheduled for 7. Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for the show, and anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and enter through the West entrance.