Garside headlines record Australian Olympic boxing team

Alex Mitchell |

Harry Garside will head to the Paris Olympics aiming to improve on his Tokyo Games bronze.
Harry Garside will head to the Paris Olympics aiming to improve on his Tokyo Games bronze.

Bronze medallist Harry Garside says he’d be betraying his younger self if he didn’t head to this year’s Paris Olympics and fight for his place atop the podium.

The 26-year-old headlines a history-making, 12-athlete Australian boxing team searching for the nation’s first ever gold medal in the discipline.

The squad includes Australia’s first Indigenous and Muslim women – Marissa Williamson Pohlman and Tina Rahimi – as part of a six-fighter female contingent that has tripled from the two that headed to Tokyo in 2021.

But none boast the name value of Garside, who headed to the professional ranks after breaking Australia’s 33-year Olympic boxing medal drought in Tokyo.

Not a perfect 3-0 start to his professional tenure nor the Australian lightweight title could satisfy his dream of tasting Olympic gold.

“Professional boxing was great, right? You start building a bit more of a media profile, you’re learning all these things, it’s a different sport almost and I was getting paid for the first time,” Garside told AAP.

“But I felt like I was betraying my younger self by getting so close at Tokyo and not rolling the dice again.

“I just felt like I would be 50 years old and disappointed if I didn’t.

“I’m a man who, once I commit to something, I’m all-in … once I made that decision, I was locked in for Paris.”

Tina Rahimi.
Tina Rahimi poses for a photo after Australia’s boxing team announcement for the Paris Olympics. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

A second tilt at a professional career looms for Garside after Paris, admitting the need to tend to his Olympic itch held him back during his first.

“It was great, but my heart wasn’t fully in it because my younger self wants to be gold medallist,” he said.

“It was something different going 10 rounds, but I’ve always been a bit of an endurance athlete, I’m not a massive puncher so I don’t think I’m so crowd-pleasing at times.

“Who knows about professional boxing, maybe another Olympics, I’m not sure but I’ll make that decision post-Paris.”

Caitlin Parker joins Garside as returning Olympians, while Williamson Pohlman and Callum Peters are the first two Indigenous athletes officially selected for Paris.

Williamson Pohlman, 22, said competing at the top level continued the journey of a “naughty foster kid” from Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Marissa Williamson Pohlman.
Marissa Williamson Pohlman is all smiles after receiving her ticket to the Paris Games. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“I started boxing when I was 17 … I was getting into fights at school, I just loved to punch-on,” she told AAP.

“Boxing really resonated with me, being allowed to actually do it, and then I just sort of fell in love with the sport.”

The Ngarrindjeri woman said representing Indigenous Australians – both inside and outside the ring – drove her on.

“I like putting my people on the map, sometimes when I’m going overseas, people don’t even know Australia has a black history and a black future,” she said.

“I’m walking in two worlds, competing for Australia, but also working outside of the sport I have a career in Aboriginal Affairs and I’m keen to keep pursuing that once my Olympic journey is over.”

AUSTRALIA’S OLYMPIC BOXING TEAM:

Men: Yusuf Chothia, Shannan Davey, Harry Garside, Callum Peters, Charlie Senior, Teremoana Teremoana.

Women: Tiana Echegaray, Tyla McDonald, Caitlin Parker, Tina Rahimi, Monique Suraci, Marissa Williamson Pohlman.

AAP