When Harry Garside realised he was the only Australian boxing hope left in Tokyo, he didn’t sweat it.
“It just ups the stakes,” he told News Corp before delivering a performance on Saturday night that has him one win away from an Olympic medal.
Garside was dominant on his way to a unanimous decision (5-0) win over No. 2 seed Jonas Jonas from Namibia, with a quarter-final against Kazakhstan’s Zakir Safiullin now booked for Tuesday.
The 24-year-old from Melbourne came out fast, controlled things when Jonas got going in the second, and put the fight away in a third round that saw every judge side with the mullet in the red corner.
“I’m still pinching myself, to be honest,” Garside, all smiles, said after securing his second win in the lightweight bracket.
“I’m here for the gold medal, and there’s three more [wins] to go.”
Garside danced around his stance-switching opponent for three rounds as his eliminated Australian teammates shouted support and punch combinations from the empty stands of the Kokugikan Arena.
“It’s massive,” Garside said of his fellow fighters watching on. “Obviously there’s no crowd here, and I said to them, ‘make sure you bring a loud voice.’
“I’d prefer them to be in competition … but having them in the crowd cheering me on – I’m forever grateful.”
After nearly 18 months out of the ring, Garside shook out the cobwebs against Papua New Guinea’s John Ume in his opener. Against Jonas, who had a bye to secure passage to the Round of 16, it was clear who the sharper fighter was.
“It’s a big advantage to have already fought,” Garside said. “I knew that coming into it. I knew I had to capitalise in the first round and make sure I won. And [after that] he was playing catch-up.”
A cracking right hook midway through the first was a sign of things to come as all five judges gave Garside the round. Jonas came out firing in the second, but still dropped the round on three scorecards, before Garside pitched a shutout in the third.
Garside won the gold in 2018 at the Commonwealth Games fighting at 60kg in the lightweight division. Jonas stood atop the podium there too, but in the light welterweight division (63kg). With the divisions merged — and the limit set at 63kg — Garside had to step up.
Step up is exactly what he did. And he’ll need to do it again in a few days if he wants a medal, of any kind.
“He’s a tough, tough, tough man from Kazakhstan,” Garside said of his next opponent, who had a walkover win to progress.
“I’ve never fought him, never done any sparring with him, but I’ve seen him at plenty of tournaments.
“I’ve done a lot of research on him; I really like his style, I really like watching him. I’m a big fan of his.
“But I know I can beat him. Everyone here is beatable. They’ve got two arms and two legs, and 24 hours in the day.”