Garside, Rahimi lead Games boxing qualification mission

Murray Wenzel |

Harry Garside is one of 13 Australian boxers within a fight of earning an Olympic quota spot.
Harry Garside is one of 13 Australian boxers within a fight of earning an Olympic quota spot.

Boxing trailblazers Tina Rahimi and Marissa Williamson Pohlman are one win away from securing Olympic quota spots, while Harry Garside has also cruised to within reach of another Games campaign.

The trio have all progressed to finals at the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, with Rahimi (57kg) and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Garside (63.5kg) winning their semi-finals on Thursday at Honiara’s Friendship Hall.

Yusuf Chothia, Shannan Davey and super-heavyweight Teremoana Teremoana – with a powerful knockout – also won through to finals on Thursday, meaning all 13 Australians at the Games will fight for gold and an Olympic quota spot for the nation.

Australian boxer Tina Rahimi.
Trailblazer Tina Rahimi earned a bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

No Australian boxer has won Olympic gold. Garside broke a 33-year medal drought in the ring by taking bronze in Tokyo two years ago.

He was hit early before gliding past local hope Pemberton Lele, stopping him in the third and final round to set up a date with Fiji’s Elia Rokobuli on Saturday.

A plumber by trade, Garside earned a following with his charismatic march to bronze in Tokyo before turning professional.

He controversially returned to the amateur ranks after just three victories to pursue Olympic gold.

“(Lele) showed up to fight, caught me with a big overhand in the first round, but I adapted well,” Garside said.

“I’ve got to stay focused. My opponent in the final from Fiji is class, it looks like he can bang and swings for the fences. I’m expecting a really hard fight.”

Caitlin Parker, Monique Suraci, Tiana Echegaray, Tyla McDonald, Charlie Senior, Callum Peters and Adrian Paoletti had already booked their finals berths.

“Australian boxing right now is in such a special spot. To be on the verge of qualifying maybe a full team is unbelievable,” Garside said.

Rahimi took bronze as Australia’s first Muslim female Commonwealth Games boxer in Birmingham last year.

The former make-up artist, who discovered the sport after enjoying boxing fitness classes, has overcome body-image issues and anxiety to sit on the cusp of an Olympic berth thanks to a unanimous points victory against New Zealand’s Jen Peters.

“I was so nervous, my legs felt like jelly,” Rahimi said. 

“I actually got teary afterwards, I know it’s not the final, but I just can’t imagine how I’ll feel if I actually qualify.

“I literally get goosebumps thinking about qualifying for the Olympics. I’ve envisioned this, I know it’s something I really can do, I believe in myself.” 

Williamson Pohlman (66kg) is gunning to become the first Indigenous woman to box for Australia at the Olympics.

“I’m one fight away from my Olympic dream … hopefully I’ll be the first one,” she said.

“To the black fellas at home, and I know you’re all watching, I’ll be waving that flag real proud.”