Son’s death inspires mixed martial arts fighter’s battle

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WHEN Steven Gardener steps into the ring this weekend he will draw inspiration from the son he knew for just seven days.

For the past eight weeks, the 28-year-old East End lad has been training for the biggest fight of his life.

Sunderland fighter Steven 'Bam Bam' Gardener  (left) training for this weekends fight with top European MMA fighters. Pictured with coach Benny Anderson

Sunderland fighter Steven 'Bam Bam' Gardener (left) training for this weekends fight with top European MMA fighters. Pictured with coach Benny Anderson

In front of Channel 5 viewers, Steven will take on undefeated Mahmood Besharate in a mixed martial arts battle at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena.

The Sunderland doorman is keeping motivated for his rigorous training schedule by taking inspiration from his little boy who died from a rare illness when he was just one week old.

Baby Steven suffered from an incurable condition which affected 95 per cent of the cells in his body. He was born at Sunderland Royal Hospital by Caesarean section on January 17, 2008 – two weeks before his due date – weighing 3lb12oz.

Just a week after his birth, the heart-breaking decision was made to take him off the ventilation system. He died on January 24.

Steven said: “The way he fought on gives me the strength to keep fighting on.

“On the days when I don’t feel like getting up and going to the gym to train for five hours a day, I think about the courage he showed.”

Steven, who now has two daughters, Felicity, three, and Zeya, two, is training every day at Fitness 2000 in Roker where he is ensuring his 5ft 5in frame is in perfect condition.

Eating six small meals per day, he is undergoing a punishing fitness regime during the day before working as a security man at Miss D’s in the city centre at night.

“I’m doing this because I want my girls to see their dad working hard and achieving something.

“I don’t want them growing up seeing someone who has done nothing, achieved nothing and just sits in front of the TV watching Jeremy Kyle.”

Steven admits it is hard juggling parenthood, a job and training.

He added: “I love what I do, and I want my family to see that. I want my girls to look up to me.”

Steven first got into mixed martial arts three years ago. He used to be a boxer with Hylton Boys’ Club but found his height to be a disadvantage.

Now he is facing the toughest challenge yet. Mahmood Besharate, known as the Persian Pride, is undefeated in his professional career. The pair will go head to head at BAMMA 12 next Saturday.

Twitter: @craigjourno