20/04/2024

Harry Garside has won Australia's first Olympic boxing medal in over three decades - Photo: Australian Olympic Team

Despite a unanimous decision loss in the lightweight semi-finals, Harry Garside has secured Australia’s first boxing medal since 1988.

A gallant Harry Garside has been awarded a bronze medal following defeat to Andy Cruz in the semi-final of the men’s lightweight boxing division.

With the result, he becomes the first Australian boxer since Grahame “Spike” Cheney in 1988 to win an Olympic medal in the sport.

Despite the defeat, Garside now joins an elite club. Alongside Anthony Madigan and Oliver Taylor, he is one of three Australian boxers to win medals in both a Commonwealth and Olympic games.

Brave until the final bell, the 24-year-old was tasked with a tall order in the Cuban Cruz, who is perhaps the pound-for-pound best amateur boxer in the World.

The opening round started with a flurry as Cruz established his jab early and went about backing Garside into the ropes. Scoring with combinations to both the body and the head, the Cuban took the round 10-9 on all five cards.

Not to be deterred, the fighter known as “Kangi” fired back with his trademark jab to the body and head movement. The onslaught of right hands from Cruz proved to be enough to again win on each card though.

Trailing 20-18 across the board, the southpaw altered his style. Now carrying both hands up and marching rather than bouncing, Garside fought like a fighter needing a stoppage to move on to the gold medal match.

A calculated Cruz picked his openings, however, landing an educated left hook on a number of occasions. When the referee stopped the action to give Garside a standing eight count, the Olympic dream was all but ended.

The official result was a unanimous decision to Cruz, with three judges giving scores of 30-27 and two 30-26. He will now meet the USA’s Keyshawn Davis in the gold medal match on Sunday, August 8 at 3:15 pm.

Securing the medal

The bronze medal finish was guaranteed with a split decision win against Kazakhstan’s Zakir Safiullin on Tuesday night.

Despite an incredibly strong start that saw Garside land to the body on numerous occasions, three judges scored the first round to Safiullin.

He stuck to his game plan though, continuing to circle away from danger while throwing a pinpoint left hand. In fact, the second round was probably Garside’s best and when the bell rang, he had squared the ledger.

With three judges scoring the second for Garside, the cards were dead even entering the final round. Two saw both rounds for Garside, two saw both for Safiullin and one had it tied at 19-19.

At this point the Kazakhstani began to fire, fighting at close range with body combinations and multiple left hooks. Ever resilient, Garside stuck behind his southpaw jab and evaded his opponent’s best punches until the end of the fight.

As the arena announcer uttered the phrase “winner by split decision – from the blue corner”, an elated warrior let out a primal scream in joy for what he had achieved.

So close was the fight that of the three judges that scored the third round for Garside, two scored the fight for Safiullin. The one outlier was the official that saw the bout tied going into the last.

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Road to boxing glory

A medal placement is a just reward for a fighter who has worked incredibly hard at his craft.

After a gold medal triumph in the 2018 Commonwealth games final over India’s Manish Kaushik, Garside did not qualify for Tokyo at the 2020 Asia and Oceania championships.

In fact, he was defeated at the tournament by the same man he bested for gold in 2018 in a box off.

Awarded a place in Tokyo based on World ranking quota points, Garside was determined to make the most of his opportunity.

Wins over John Ume (Papua New Guinea), Jonas Jonas (Namibia) and the aforementioned Safiullin solidified this.

While he will be disappointed in his semi-final result, Garside can take solace in his history-making performances.

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1423532357353672706?s=20

Not only did he capture the imagination of a sporting nation so eager to see an underdog win, but he also aims to use his story to help others.

From a plumber to an Olympic medallist, the long road Garside has taken is a journey that will inspire a great many.

More than just a physical reward, the bronze medal symbolises the power of intense focus, goal setting and dedication to hard work.

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