Australia's ballet-loving Olympic boxer 'breaking stereotypes'

Tokyo (AFP) –


Australia's first Olympic boxing medallist in 33 years is also a certified plumber, says he "fell in love" with ballet and sported painted fingernails this week in Tokyo.

Harry Garside has never been your average fighter and he proved it again this week after winning his quarter-final.

"I just want to break stereotypes, to be honest," the 24-year-old said following his lightweight victory on split points over Kazakhstan's Zakir Safiullin, ensuring that he will take home at least bronze.

After the bout he removed his gloves to reveal painted white fingernails, each with a sliver of colour that appeared to represent a rainbow.

"There's a lot of people out there who feel like they have to be something because they're a male or a female," Garside said. "I'm all about just being different."

Garside, the only Australian boxer left in the Japanese capital, said: "I was going to wear a dress to the opening ceremony, but I didn't want to offend anyone".

Garside, who won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in his home country, has always done things a bit differently.

That is also the case when it comes to training. He says that he always wanted to try ballet anyway, but he also thinks it makes him a better boxer.

On his leg he has a tattoo of Vasiliy Lomachenko, the Ukrainian considered one of the world's best pound-for-pound boxers.

Harry Garside defeated Kazakhstan's Zakir Safiullin in the lightweight quarter-finals
Harry Garside defeated Kazakhstan's Zakir Safiullin in the lightweight quarter-finals Luis ROBAYO POOL/AFP

"He's my favourite fighter and he actually did a lot of traditional dancing, and a few other athletes do it (ballet) too," Garside told AFP.

"So I tried it out and fell in love with it almost instantly. It's really hard, it's really, really difficult.

"It's definitely helped me throughout my boxing with my footwork and technique. Coordination is obviously a big thing. I'm very stiff in the ring and I feel like it's loosened me up a little bit.

"I'll continue doing it even after boxing."

- Sound of silence -

Garside, who lists volunteering among his hobbies, says reaching the last four at the Olympics has been "the highlight of my life so far".

But the self-confessed "mummy's boy" who followed his brothers into boxing does not want the showreel to end in Tokyo, where he faces the daunting prospect of Cuba's two-time world champion Andy Cruz in the semi-finals.

He is determined to keep improving, no matter what happens on Friday, and says that thinking outside the box helps him do that.

"I do something once a month that makes me feel uncomfortable," said Garside, whose sentences tumble out of his mouth at the same pace as his fast fists.

"I've done things like karaoke, public reading was really tough, 48 hours without talking, numerous other things.

"I'll continue doing that because I feel that growth as a human and that carries on into my boxing."

So what did Garside, a self-confessed "massive chatterbox", discover about himself from keeping quiet for two days?

"I learn something new from each challenge and one thing I learnt was that sometimes I'm a bit over-talkative," he said.

"That doesn't give other people much opportunity to talk so it made me realise that sometimes I need to pull myself back and allow other people to come into the circle."