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PRESS RELEASE: 2017 North Carolina Boxing Award Winners - by Chris Williams - | [12/31/2017]


Some boxing managers are drawn to the glitz and glory of the sport … to the idea of standing in the ring behind a fighter who has just been crowned world champion, holding up the belt and basking in the cheers of the crowd. It was something much different that inspired Gardner Payne to throw his hat in the ring, and take on the careers of some of North Carolina’s most promising boxing prospects.

Payne managed three fighters nominated for 2017 North Carolina Boxing awards Joseph Jackson, Marko Bailey, and Kelvin King.

Payne was born in North Carolina to parents who valued family and work above all else. His mother was a teacher, and his father worked in textiles, a job that kept the family on the move during Payne’s childhood. While attending college at North Carolina State, Payne secured an internship with then-Governor of North Carolina, Jim Hunt. He’d return to Hunt’s office after graduating college, working as a speechwriter and press aid. He then turned his attention to law school, attending and graduating from Campbell University.

It was then that he met his wife of 10 years at a church retreat. He noticed her beauty across the room, and once he got to know her, Payne found her to be smart, kind and witty, and the two were soon wed.

The newly minted attorney would then put the work ethic he’d inherited from his parents to the test, entering the hectic and grueling business of lobbying. When his lobbying career died down, a business opportunity presented itself, and Payne switched his attention to Sweepstakes Internet Cafes. The business grew, and Payne provided jobs to more than 80 people in North Carolina. He would then hit a roadblock. North Carolina introduced legislation that resulted in Payne having to lay off many of his staff. It was a low point for the attorney, businessman, boss, and mentor to so many, but like all great fighters, he got off the canvas and continued to fight.

In 2017, a friend asked Payne if he’d partner on a professional boxing event in Wilson, North Carolina. Like all of Payne’s businesses, he took seriously the responsibility of putting on a quality event for his community and thus began spending time in the local gyms. It wasn’t the promise of bright lights, cheers, and piles of cash that drew Payne to boxing. He was taken in by the fighters’ hard work, commitment and the stories he heard of their overcoming adversity.

After the event in Wilson, Payne signed his first managerial contract with undefeated lightweight Marko Bailey, whose resilience in the face of adversity had caught Payne’s attention. Committed to being a “hands-on” manager, Payne set himself apart early on from the businessmen-turned-managers that enter the boxing world each year, taking to heart the responsibility of driving Marko’s career, and providing opportunities to other North Carolina boxers.

While others may pursue a career in the sweet science it for the potential of glitz and glory, Gardner Payne is a manager who leads by example, exuding a modest and humble nature that belies his experience and work ethic, and one that sets himself apart in his devotion to the fighters who trust his hand to guide their careers.

"It is a tremendous honor to be selected manager of the year. I'm very thankful to the people who voted for me. I'm also very blessed to be surrounded by great boxers, team members, and mentors. Payne boxing looks forward to helping our fighters continue to develop and grow in 2018."...Gardner Payne


Congratulations to Kelvin King for his nomination as "Newcomber of the Year." All eyes will be on King as he continues to excel in his young boxing career in 2018.

Congratulations also to North Carolina "Newcomber of the Year" award recipient, JacQuan Townes.

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