BoztheMadman Posted March 15 Share Posted March 15 One of the greatest wasted hopes of British heavyweight boxing, especially in the 70's and early 80's, John L Gardner seemed to have (for a while at least) what it takes to be a world champion. He was a hard puncher and had enough boxing skills to compete at the highest level, however-his chin was suspect, which was first exposed when he was annihilated in one round by Ibar Arrington, then relatively unknown. Although he defeated some good fighters, Gardner fell short of getting a world title shot after losing his most important fights, especially against Michael Dokes. At just under 6 feet, he was short for a heavyweight but he was powerfully built and his punching power, speed and aggressive style compensated for that. John Lewis Gardner was born 19 March 1953 in Hackney, London, and grew up in poverty. As amateur, he won the Northwest London heavy championship in 1973, before turning pro on 2 October same year. He compiled a record of 24-0 with 19 knockouts, among others stopping Neville Meade by TKO6 and Bjørn Rudi by TKO3. On 27 September 1977, he fought the American contender Dale "Ibar" Arrington, who like Gardner was not a big heavyweight but could hit hard. Gardner was expected to win against the little-known Arrington, but got caught with the perfect right hand and was knocked out after 2 minutes and 20 seconds, at Empire Pool, Wembley. He rebounded by winning the British Southern Area title in his next fight on 6 December against Denton Ruddock, stopping him by TKO8. On 24 October next year, he fought against Billy Aird, a tough fighter without power, for the vacant British and Commonwealth titles and won by corner retirement after 5 rounds. The titles were vacated by Joe Bugner. He made his first defence of the titles on 26 June 1979, stopping Paul Sykes by TKO6. On 4 December that year, he fought Jimmy Young in a non-title fight at Wembley. Young was famed for his slickness and boxing IQ, but the fight was a close one, still Young got the decision after 10 rounds from the referee and the sole judge: 98 1/2 to 97 1/2. On 22 April next year, Gardner made his greatest achievement by winning the vacant European title against the bigger Rudy Gauwe of Belgium, forcing him to retire on his stool after 9 rounds, at Royal Albert Hall. He would then score his two best wins, first in a European title defence against Lorenzo Zanon, whom he stopped by KO5 and then against Ossie Ocasio, whom he knocked out in 6 rounds. These wins got him a fight against Michael Dokes, back then 20-0-1 and considered a top candidate for the world title championship. Gardner had to go to Detroit to fight the very fast and taller Dokes, on 12 June 1981 at the Joe Louis Arena. He was knocked out in 4 rounds and thus failed to get himself into contention for the world title shot. He was absent from the ring for a year before returning on 22 September 1983 and beating the journeyman Ricky James by RTD6. After winning by disqualification in his next fight against Lou Benson jr, on 2 November that year he fought the hard-hitting Noel Quarless and was stopped by TKO2 in an upset. That would be his final fight and he was 30 years old when he retired. He won 35 fights, scored 29 ko's, and lost 4, getting stopped 3 times. After retirement he opened a pub in Gateshead, Tyneside, but had to close after getting stabbed 14 times in a knife attack. He later worked selling mailing equipment. He still lives in Hackney today. John L. Gardner was just one story of how things go when you are close to reaching the top, but you fall while climbing that last bit and never recover. He simply lacked something, that little extra, it seems. His son Ross Lewis Gardner was also a pro boxer at light heavyweight, but only had one fight in 2009, which he won on points. Gardner was a fan favorite and still accomplished quite a lot for a British and white heavyweight in an era where black fighters soundly dominated the heavyweight scene. He also had an exhibition bout against Muhammad Ali in 1981, after wanting to fight Ali while Ali was still a champion. 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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