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Gardener makes pro debut on tonight's Contender card

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2016 | 4:00 AMLeroy Brown
Michael Gardener (left) in action against Zambia’s Benny Muziyo at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Jamaican Michael Gardener, representing the Caribbean team in the Wray and Nephew Contender 2016 Series, makes his debut as a professional boxer tonight.

Gardener will face USA boxer José Guzman, over five rounds in the fifth week of competition at the Chinese Benevolent Association auditorium. Fight time is 9.30 p.m. and the contest will be broadcast live on Television Jamaica.

Last week the series heated up considerably when Guyanese boxer Revlon Lake fought a bruising battle against Anthony Woods from The Bahamas to take a majority decision, and tonight's fight promises to be in the same vein.

The 22 year-old Gardener is faced with a huge task, in this his debut, but he and his camp have stated that they are very confident of victory, despite the fact that Guzman, who is 27, is a seasoned professional with 20 fights on his rÈsumÈ. It is not an impressive one, as he has won six, lost 13, and had one draw, but the fact is that he has been a professional since 2006. He last fought on March 5, losing to John Hernandez in New York over six rounds.

Gardener has been one of Jamaica's best amateur boxers and has been a champion in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions. He has represented Jamaica in overseas competitions several times and is known to be a hard-hitting boxer. His major fault as an amateur was that being primarily a counter-puncher, he had the tendency to react and fight back rather than lead and be aggressive. As a result, he was usually coming from behind, and in a three-round fight, he therefore, found himself in trouble on several occasions.

Over five rounds, he has some more time, but he still cannot afford to lose the early rounds as catching up would be difficult. The tactics that he uses tonight will be very important if he is to make a successful debut. He has good punching power, but his opponent, who was born in Puerto Rico and who has been living in the Bronx, New York, for some time, is quite likely to be very aggressive, so the ingredients are there for an exciting contest.

The winner tonight moves into the quarter-final, and will be one step closer to the Contender 2016 title and first prize of $2million. The runner-up takes home $500,000, third place $250,000 and fourth place $200,000. In the next stage of the competition, the boxers will still challenge each other over five rounds, but the semi-finals will be over seven rounds, and the final in July will be a 10-round contest.