My sincere thanks to Corey Gardner who provided this article
Alias: George Gardiner
Born: March 17, 1877 Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland
Died: July 8, 1954 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Occupation: professional boxer and saloon keeper
Title: Light Heavyweight Champion of the World (1903)
Record: 44 - 12 - 10
44 wins (32 by knockout)
12 losses (6 by knockout)
4 no contests
George Gardner is one of the few sixty - one heroes who have been ranked the number one fighter in the world. He is also one of the top ten light - heavyweights in history. Gardner was also ranked as number 29 out of 100 all - time heavyweights when he was actually a middleweight turned light heavyweight, weighing anywhere from 155 to 175 pounds. Gardner was a very good fighter and a well respected boxer, however, today he is a side note usually mentioned as the man who lost the title to 40 - year old Bob Fitzsimmons, making the "old man" the first triple - division winner in the history of boxing.
George Gardner was born on St. Patrick's Day in 1877 at County Clare, Ireland. He was the son of a prize - fighter and the Gardner family ranked high in the field of fighting. The family immigrated to America in the late 1800s and settled at Lowell, Massachusetts. The elder Gardner most likely taught his sons the trade of a fighting man. George, Billy, and Jimmy Gardner all became well known boxing champions.
The slender, tall dark George Gardner began his career as a scrapper in 1897 at Manchester, New Hampshire against Hugh Colgren, whom he defeated after four rounds. He then defeated nine men in 1898, eight being defeated at Manchester, the last named Ed "Thunderbolt" Smith whom he knocked out in the seventh round at Montreal, Canada. Gardner often boasted that he had the heaviest punch in the business and his first knockout win came on March 10th of that year, in which Gardner knocked out J. Young in three rounds.
Gardner would win thirty - one more fights by knockout. Boxers during this time normally boxed with bare - knuckles, which made the sport much more brutal than today's boxing. These old - time prizefighters were much like the U. F. C. fighters that we have today. However, George received a draw in 1899 against Bob Montgomery and Bill Hanrahan and his first loss came at Brooklyn, New York to Jimmy Handler. Gardner drew three times with the muscular George Byers, but defeated him after fourteen rounds in 1900, and that year Gardner also managed to knock down Jimmy Handler at Brooklyn, New York after three rounds. The Irishman then defeated Charlie Goff after seven rounds and the middleweight champion Frank Craig after four rounds at London, England.
Gardner proved himself as a fighter out West in 1901 when he defeated Jack Moffatt and Kid Carter at San Francisco, California. George claimed the Middleweight Championship of the World in 1901 and 1902 according to newspapers of the day. The fighting Irishman lost to Joe Walcott after a twenty round decision, but the next year in 1902 he defeated the "Barbados Demon" after another twenty round decision.
Gardner then fought his nemesis, the popular Jack Root. George had lost to him on a foul the first time they fought, but he knocked out Jack Root within seventeen rounds in front of a crowd of Arizona miners at Salt Lake City, Utah, the first man to end Root's six year winning streak. Root defeated him twice, once on a foul, while Gardner defeated Root twice, both times knocking the Austrian down. Their last bout went on for six rounds, the decision given to Root, but Gardner was no doubt the better man.
Gardner's next bout was against Jack Johnson, the first black Heavyweight Champion. Gardner weighed in at 155 pounds while Johnson weighed in at 185 pounds. However, the "Galveston Giant" couldn't knockout the fast, clever Irishman. The two talented boxers fought for twenty rounds, the decision given to Johnson. Most then began to recognize Johnson as a contender and Gardner moved on in the ranks. Gardner defeated Billy Stift and Kid Carter time and again, once more proving himself as a talented fighter.
One of Gardner's most sensational victories came on April 6th, 1903 at Boston when he knocked out Peter Maher within one round. The "Irish Giant", regarded as the most dangerous hitter of his era, was knocked down three times in the first round until he was knocked out by Gardner. Gardner then defeated Marvin Hart, the "Fighting Kentuckian" after twelve rounds but would draw with him the next year.
Then on July 4th, 1903, Gardner became the top fighter in the world when he knocked out Jack Root within twelve rounds at Fort Erie, earning the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World, the second man to hold the title in history (although some evidence shows he was the first champ). George, at age 25, would then defend and lose his title to 40 - year old Bob Fitzsimmons after a tough 20 round decision. One of the reasons Gardner is not recognized as one of the "greatest", or the "greatest", is because he won the title and then lost it in the same year. However, so did Jack Root, as well as Bob Fitzsimmons, although he drew with Jack O' Brien in 1904, but then lost it in 1905, which is quite a time span. The boxer Max Baer won the Heavyweight Championship in 1934, fought only exhibitions (winning all of them) and was defeated for the title in 1935 by none other than Jim Braddock, the "Cinderella Man", who then lost his title in his next fight. Braddock chose not to fight for two years after he won the title but in his next bout he lost the title in 1938 to Joe Louis.
Most champions hold their title for more than a year, but the reason being that they are not eager to fight anyone because the fear of losing the title. Jim Braddock, Bob Fitzsimmons, and Marvin Hart held their titles for more than a year because they did not fight until a year or more later. Most champions lose their title in their next fight, possibly the pressure.
Perhaps it was Gardner's Irish ancestry which made him so eager to fight and gamble. A newspaper headline read that Gardner bet all of his money that he would defeat Fitzsimmons, while "Lanky Bob" boasted he would knock out the young man within one round. Both men were sadly disappointed.
Gardner defended his title on November 25th, 1903 at San Francisco, California. Both men weighed in at 168 pounds and were both the same height. Fitzsimmons, who had killed two men in the ring, was cautious of Gardner while the latter did not give his all, but as always proved himself as a game fighter. The fight was described as boring and Fitzsimmons had knocked the Irishman down twice according to the New York Times. George was in no danger of being knocked out, dodged some of the old man's hardest blows, and the only hard punch he gave was towards the end in the 20th round when he punched Fitz in the face ending the fight. The decision was given to Fitzsimmons and history was made, but nobody really cared. It is now just another piece of the Fitzsimmons' legend, an impossible feat that only the Cornishman could accomplish against the younger, stronger, and clever George Gardner.
However, in December of 1903, according to a newspaper, Gardner challenged Fitzsimmons, but "Lanky Bob" did not care to fight the game Irishman again. Then in 1904 George fought Marvin Hart at Boston and it was declared a draw. Gardner then defeated Fred Cooley and Jim Driscoll in Chicago, six rounds each on the same day. Gardner was once again getting back on a winning streak after he defeated Kid Carter, but he fought Jack Root twice more as previously mentioned, drew and then lost the decision after six rounds. Jack Root even challenged Fitzsimmons trying to put himself on the level of Gardner's talent, but never fought him.
Towards the end of 1904, Gardner had knocked out Jim Jeffords at Butte, Montana after three rounds, but then he drew to "Fireman Jim Flynn" at Denver, Colorado after ten rounds. Then in 1905 both Jack Johnson and George Gardner challenged Marvin Hart for the Heavyweight Championship of the World after Hart knocked out Jack Root after twelve rounds. Hart declined and was careful about his next fight, but soon lost the title. It seems that George wasn't given a second chance to earn another title. It's very likely that if Fitzsimmons or Hart would have been brave enough to defend their title against Gardner, it would have made him the light - heavyweight champion again, or even the heavyweight champion.
Gardner managed to knock out Billy Stift after five rounds at Odgen, Utah in 1905, but this would be George's last victory. He then fought seven more bouts, receiving draws and losses to Al Kaufman, Jim Flynn, Terry Mustain, and Tony Ross from 1906 to 1908. He retired at age thirty - one, an outstanding career lasting for about ten years. The Gardner name was still in the headlines in boxing though. His brother Jimmy Gardner claimed the Welterweight Championship of the World in 1908 at New Orleans, Louisiana, making the Gardner boys the first Irish - American brothers in history to hold world championship titles.
Gardner then began his life as a family man and businessman, being the owner of a saloon in Chicago. Although Fitzsimmons was a formidable boxer at age 40, Gardner was a formidable fighter at age 60 and "snowy haired". According to a newspaper headlined, "Old Ring Champ K. O.'s Tough Guy", a man came into his saloon and pulled a gun. Gardner walked up to the intruder and unhooked a left to the jaw which sent the bully reeling. The intruder was arrested and was sent to jail as soon as he was well enough to leave the hospital.
George's son Morgan Gardner began his career as a professional boxer in 1927, also using the alias of Gardiner (they like their last name). Morgan had fought four professional bouts, winning three and losing one. Gardner's first fight ended with a victory, a one round knockout to be exact. His last, he was knocked out and decided to end his career in 1928 to begin a career in law enforcement. Gardner was a real tough guy, he was a narcotics detective in Chicago on the infamous Maxwell Street and their were stories of him knocking and punching people out of plate glass windows and such. It is said that Gardner was based on "The Man" in the novel titled "Knock on Any Door" by Willard Motley. This is very possible, Motley being raised in that area of Chicago.
George Gardner died on July 8th, 1954 at Chicago, Illinois, at the age of seventy - six. He was never given the credit he should have been given but he was one of the biggest names in boxing history. He has been referred to as a "top notcher" in newspapers and a "classy veteran" in books on boxing. If he was not the greatest, then he was one of the greatest.
By: Corey Gardner