WOONSOCKET â€” Thereâ€™s something about â€śbackyard brawlsâ€ť that bring out the best in Joe Gardner.
The Woonsocket Boxing Club super middleweight, who owns a 9-5-1 mark, is 6-1 in fights against opponents from Rhode Island and nearby communities in Massachusetts, and his only loss came in May 2010 when he decided to end a 6 1/2-year layoff by taking on New England champion Vladine Biosse on short notice.
While that fight was a challenging one for Gardner, so does the one awaiting him this week in the finale of Jimmy Burchfieldâ€™s Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.â€™s â€śThursday Night Fight Seriesâ€ť at the Twin River Event Center.
Gardner will fight unbeaten Providence light heavyweight prospect Alex Amparo in a six-round intrastate showdown that promises to be one of the nightâ€™s must-watch attractions on â€śThe Pride is Backâ€ť card.
â€śI wanted to stay busy and I was hoping to get back on this card,â€ť Gardner said before heading out for an early Friday afternoon training session. â€śThis is the fight they offered me, so I kind of had to jump on it.â€ť
Gardner, who will appear in his fourth bout in an 8 1/2-month span and is a little more than a month removed from a six-round split decision victory over Philip Burnette of Myrtle Beach, S.C., will take on the hard-hitting Amparo (5-0, 3 KOs) in a fight scheduled for 168 pounds, but with a catch.
â€śI know he gets big from weigh-in to fight night, so I made sure there was a cap,â€ť added Gardner. â€śWeâ€™re also going to do a day-of-the-fight weigh-in at 175. I know heâ€™s been getting back to 190, and thereâ€™s no way I can let that happen. Itâ€™s the only thing keeping me in this fight, and (Amparoâ€™s corner) agreed to it. They either think that they see something in me or theyâ€™re really being fair about this.
â€śRight now, my weightâ€™s perfect. I donâ€™t have to struggle at all to make 168. Even after eating four meals on Thanksgiving, Iâ€™m 172 right now, so Iâ€™ll be fine.â€ť
Gardner is very familiar with Amparo, who has been Gardnerâ€™s main sparring partner for the better part of the past two years. He even got to take a peek at Amparoâ€™s last fight on Oct. 18 at Twin River, a fourth-round TKO of Nick Lavin of Shelton, Conn., because it was on the same card that Gardner was on when he beat Burnette.
â€śHeâ€™s aggressive and raw,â€ť added Gardner. â€śAnd if you were at his last fight, you can see that he kind of gets a little excited early and spends his gas early. This is going to be his first six-rounder, so my plan is to have a long, busy fight and tire him out, and now that heâ€™s actually going to be my size, his power shouldnâ€™t be the big weapon that it usually is.â€ť
Gardner also has the experience factor on his side. While heâ€™s mixed it up over the years with several top-notch fighters with winning records, Amparo had topped Lavin (2-4) twice and posted his other three wins against MMA fighters who were either debuting in boxing or making their second pro fight.
And while that favors Gardner, he hopes to have his normally-strong backing of fans on hand rooting him on, especially with Amparo expecting to also bring a healthy dose of energetic supporters.
â€śWe were told the last show that this was going to be the last Thursday night (fight series), but then this one popped up,â€ť said Gardner. â€śWe have a good core of people that keep coming to my fights, and I hope they can make it to one more fight. Itâ€™s going to be a good one.â€ť
The main event also promises to be a good one and a fight that fans are heavily anticipating. Itâ€™s the return of former International Boxing Organization world middleweight champion Peter Manfredo Jr. (37-7, 20 KOs), who will be back in the ring after a yearâ€™s retirement to fight Pittsburghâ€™s Rayco Saunders (22-18-2, 9 KOs) in a light heavyweight fight that is scheduled for 10 rounds.
Biosse will appear in the co-feature and take a 14-1-1 (7 KOs) record in a six-round super middleweight fight against an opponent to be announced in the next couple of days. Biosse, a Providence resident and a Cape Verdean native with a strong fan base in Pawtucket and Central Falls, will be seeking his fourth win in as many fights this year.
Pawtucket middleweight prospect Thomas Falowo, who boasts an 8-1 (6 KOs) record, will also pursue his fourth victory of 2012 when the Manfredoâ€™s Gym fighter battles Julio Garcia (5-3, 3 KOs) of Rincon, Puerto Rico in a six-rounder, and another Manfredoâ€™s Gym boxer, female bantamweight Shelito Vincent (5-0) of Providence (by way of New London, Conn.) will battle Rosie Serine (2-0) of Ottawa, Canada in another six-rounder.
Tickets for the show are $40, $60, $100 and $150 (VIP) and available by calling CES at 724-2253/2254, going online at www.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.