CRAIG Gardner may be another addition to the Stadium of Light’s boxing fan club but he will not follow Phil Bardsley’s lead and use it to keep trim in pre-season.
Sunderland defender Bardsley famously prepared for last term – his best as a professional – by sparring in Manchester. However, Gardner, a good friend of British boxer Frankie Gavin, visits Birmingham gyms to inspire, not perspire.
He said: “I do not do it as part of my fitness. One of my best mates is Frankie Gavin.
“He is a top lad and I have followed him all over the country. I have always followed boxing full stop, but it is also because of him. It is just a second hobby really. I don’t do it here.
“Bardo is into his boxing as well, we speak about it a bit.
“I help fund Eastside Boxing Gym in Birmingham, there are some quality lads there and a staff who have built the gym up from literally just a massive unit.
“I go there during the summer. I would go there and support Frankie and maybe do a bit with him, I would go to Eastside and speak to them.
“It is nice to know that sort of people, nice to see young kids who want to get off the street and not get into trouble, drugs or drink, kids who want to do something with their lives.
“You can see it making that difference to people all the time. You walk in there and you have seven, eight, nine, 15, 16, 18-year-olds punching the bags. You are like, ‘this is brilliant’.”
Gardner has had similar offers from one of the leading figures in Wearside boxing.
“I was introduced to (trainer and promoter) Tommy Conroy not too long ago, and he was asking if I wanted to come to the boxing gym in Sunderland,.
“He isa great man, I had heard a lot of good things about him as well. Kevin Ball knows him.”
While Bardsley is from a boxing background, Gardner’s is a footballing one. Brothers Terry, Carl, Mark and Richard have played at one level or another, Gary at Aston Villa.