Joe Gardnerâs return to the super middleweight ranks was a triumphant one.
The Woonsocket Boxing Club veteran, who went 0-3 as a light heavyweight a year ago, returned to the win column in his old weight class this past weekend on Big Six Entertainmentâs âWhoâs Next?â card at the R.I. Convention Center in Providence.
Gardner seized an all-Blackstone Valley showdown with Pawtucketâs Rameil Shelton by claiming a four-round unanimous-decision victory by scores of 40-36, 39-37, and 39-37.
It was Gardnerâs first âWâ since he decisioned West Warwickâs Keith Kozlin to win the EBA New England lightweight championship on Nov. 12, 2010 at Twin River, and it was a win that sent a large gathering of Gardnerâs loyal fan base back up Route 146 more than pleased.
âEverything was great,â added Gardner, who improved to 8-4-1, but 5-0-1 in fights where he was no more than 165 pounds. âRight now, I feel better than ever. I knew I hadnât lost anything. My training has been better than ever and my sparringâs been more successful than it had been in the past. Itâs just that my level of opposition was a little too high.â
Gardner, who actually found himself having to put on a few pounds before his last fight as a light heavyweight last December, had no problems at all getting down to 165 pounds for last weekendâs bout.
Originally, he was supposed to battle Borngod Washington of Queens, N.Y. in a six-round match, but when Washington âhad some entanglements outside of boxing that prevented him from being there,â added Gardner, he was matched up with the 19-year-old Shelton, who is 16Â˝ years younger than him.
Shelton, who skipped his senior season of football at Tolman High to turn pro on Sept. 3, 2010, had his finest round in the first and won the round on two of the three judgesâ cards, but Gardner took over after that.
âThe first round was close,â said Gardner. âI felt like I won it, but he did land a couple of big shots, and that might have been enough for the judges.
âBut I landed some good body shots in the first couple of rounds, and in the last two rounds, my jab took over and I was able to outbox him. In the fourth (round), I landed a couple of good five-six punch combinations, but I couldnât knock him down. He was pretty sturdy.â
Shelton fell to 0-4 with the loss, but Gardner had some words of praise for the teenage prospect, who turns 20 on May 1.
âHeâs much better than his record,â Gardner said of Shelton. âI heard he was a pretty good amateur and went for a national title. Heâs still young and heâs only going to get stronger. Heâs got a great future ahead of him in this game.â
As for Gardner, he was back at the Woonsocket Boxing Club on Monday and looking forward to his next fight. A June fight on Big Six Entertainmentâs next show is on his radar, and he said he wouldnât mind fighting another opponent before then.
âIâve had a few calls,â added Gardner. âThereâs a show on Foxwoods on the 30th and I was hoping to jump onto that. (Big Six Entertainment) wants to use me in June on the next local show, and Iâll definitely jump on that. Iâd like to string together a few more wins, and then weâll see what happens.â