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Four-time Irish Elite champion and Tokyo prospect Gardiner retires from boxing for family reasons

The Clonmel boxing great will not bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after his familial and personal circumstances changed last year.

Tipp super-heavy Dean Gardiner.
Tipp super-heavy Dean Gardiner.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

FOUR-TIME IRISH ELITE champion Dean Gardiner has retired from boxing in advance of the prospective resumption of Tokyo Olympics qualifiers.

The Clonmel-native super-heavyweight, 32, had accrued a mass of international experience over the last seven years, establishing himself as the nation’s dominant super-heavy and earning selection to represent Ireland at the European qualifiers in London last March.

However, before Gardiner could throw a punch in London, the European leg of qualifiers were postponed due to the onset of Covid-19.

The subsequent push-back of the Olympics to 2021, the recent postponement of the 2021 Irish Elites, and the uncertainty surrounding the global amateur boxing calendar generally, were key factors in Gardiner’s decision to hang up his gloves following an illustrious career. The popular ‘Breakfast’ welcomed his first child, Michael, with partner Natasha last year and returned to full-time education to study business in September, a time by which the Olympics were originally supposed to be finished.

Ultimately, juggling family life, education and 10-12 training sessions per week — split between Clonmel and Abbotstown — was deemed infeasible, and Gardiner decided on New Year’s Eve to park his boxing dream.

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dean-gardiner-celebrates-with-the-trophy Dean Gardiner celebrates with the national title. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Clonmel Boxing Club coach Martin Fennessy confirmed his fighter’s decision on Wednesday night, describing ‘Breakfast’ as “one of Ireland’s best ever super heavyweights”, a sentiment echoed by his peers.

Former Irish captain and returning super-heavy Darren O’Neill said of his team-mate: “Go on Breakkie ya legend. Keep fit, I miss our few rounds tearing into me. Was waiting for the call to spar you before the nationals.”

One of O’Neill’s successors as captain, three-time World Championships medallist and three-time European champion Joe Ward, added: “All the best, Dean. I’m privileged to have shared trips away with you and gotten to know you over the last number of years. Best of luck in the future, and to your family.”

Regan Buckley, the 2019 European Games bronze medallist who retired aged 22 last year citing financial reasons, described Gardiner as “an absolute gentleman of the sport” and, similarly to Ward, said he was “privileged to have shared trips away with him.”

Gardiner represented Ireland at a plethora of international tournaments including European and World Championships but missed out on the Rio Olympics in 2016 after losing in the final of the world qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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