The Forgotten Champ: John L. Gardner


He was the Hackney Rock, the ‘Mini Marciano’, king of the British and European heavyweights, yet somewhere down the line John L Gardner became the ‘Forgotten Champ’.

Terrorised by a brutal father, shunned by his peers, his was a torrid childhood in the deprived East End where his only friends were his doting mother and an Alsatian called Vic.

But a chance encounter with Dr Who and the wiles of his gangster brother led Gardner to the attention of unscrupulous boxing moguls who turned him into an irresistible force but took his spoils in the process.

At his peak, Gardner was nigh-on unbeatable. He faced down the gruesome Paul Sykes, went toe-to-toe with Ali and had a strange encounter with Freddie Starr and a UFO.

He fought the law, battled a rampant gambling habit and ultimately stared down his most resilient foe - the ‘Big C’.

In this absorbing and unflinching account of his stellar career, Gardner lifts the lid on how he was betrayed by some of the biggest names in boxing. How he conquered half the world but preferred to shun the limelight.

Moving, funny and at times tragic, his remarkable story is a must-read for all fans of the noble art.

With Nick Towle