For so long Harry Garside found himself in a constant battle.
Consumed by the feeling he was not good enough, he started training to become a boxer at just nine years old.
When he was legally allowed to have his first fight, Garside had to confront those same doubts once more, left in tears after being given two mandatory eight counts in a brutal defeat.
He went on to lose 10 of his first 18 bouts and failed to qualify for the Olympics on five separate occasions.
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But with every defeat he had coach Brian Levier in his corner – the man he credits for helping him believe he truly was worth it.
Garside craves that feeling and the search for it has taken him across the world, from India to the Philippines and finally Tokyo.
Not bad for a self-described “ordinary kid” who grew up in the small town of Lilydale in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
As Garside jokes, Lilydale is “famous for the free-range chickens” but the local boxing gym also now has its own claim to fame.
Andrew and Jason Moloney – who are fighting this weekend – grew up around the same area as Garside and trained at the same Lilydale gym as him.
The Australian twins have already made their mark on the boxing world, with Andrew competing for the WBA Super Flyweight title on Sunday.
Now Garside is following suit after securing Australia’s first medal in boxing for 33 years and this is only the start.
CARVING HIS OWN ‘UNUSUAL’ PATH TO THE TOP
Garside already has 34,000 followers on Instagram, buoyed by overwhelming support from the Australian public.
Admiration continues to grow for the unapologetically authentic 24-year-old, even if he did not always embrace his true self.
Now though, Garside has vowed to never “lose myself”, no matter what his future holds.
That includes never forgetting where he came from.
“I am so grateful I grew up where I did,” he told foxsports.com.au from hotel quarantine.
“I’ve got two awesome parents. I think it is all part of the story, it makes you resilient [and] tough.”
Garside’s rise in the ring has already taken him to “some pretty rough places in the world” but he said those “humbling” experiences only reaffirmed the true value of the sport.
“I lived in the Philippines for about two or three months and I was pretty much living on the ground,” he said.
“It really toughens you up.
“I know I really love boxing and don’t really care about anything money or anything like that.
“I don’t care about the limelight either. I just want to box and love the person I become when I box and the people I’ve met through boxing.
“My life would be so different if I didn’t take up boxing at such a young age.”
Garside first took up boxing in a bid to gain the respect of his father Shaun and older brothers Josh and Jack.
Speaking earlier this week on ‘The Main Event Boxing Podcast’, Garside said he always felt “different and unusual”.
“I’m the youngest of three boys and when I went to school after my brothers had already been in school a number of years, I rocked up and it was almost like: ‘You’re a Garside’ and it almost felt like I had to act a certain way because that’s how my brothers acted,” he said.
“They were pretty rough around the edges and definitely caused a bit of trouble. I often felt I played that role. I think that is the reason I am so passionate about it.
“I felt numerous things were pushing me – this is how a male acts, this is what a Garside is supposed to do. I didn’t feel authentic. It didn’t feel like me.”
He credited a “life-changing” school visit from the Reach Foundation – where he now volunteers as a mentor – to giving him a voice which he is now using to redefine traditions notions of masculinity.
Even still, Garside said he is still improving himself as a human.
“I’m pretty conscious of myself and my self-worth and I really want to try my hardest,” he added.
“I’m not a great human, I’ve got faults. But I try my best to be a good human and hope I can inspire others to be a good human.”
CHANGING THE WORLD AND ACHIEVING THE ‘IMPOSSIBLE’
Self-love was something Garside struggled with when he was younger.
It was half of the reason why he found himself at Tokyo and in the ring with Andy Cruz, who can lay claim to being the best pound-for-pound amateur boxer in the world.
He wanted to put the respect on his name and silence the doubters, like he did after winning his first Australian title despite suggestions going into that event that he was the easiest in division.
Garside is a completely different human now and a strong believer that combat sports can change the world.
“I’m a massive advocate for this,” he said.
“Probably not boxing because of head trauma at a young age and I understand that [but] if our school system made it compulsory that kids in high school have to do wrestling, judo or combat sports, I feel the world would be a completely different place because the respect, dedication, grit, self-love and self-confidence you get from boxing I honestly think would change the world.
“Any sport is fantastic but combat sport is something you really have to delve inside and be vulnerable… you learn more about yourself when you are vulnerable.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about being vulnerable it is Garside.
For the past two years the Victorian has been setting himself challenges every month, all in the name of forcing himself out of his comfort zone.
He made that change to his training preparation after attending the Australian Institute of Sport’s ‘Gold Medal Ready Program’, run by the commando regiment, army and gold medal alumni.
From public reading to going a month without technology, Garside is continually learning more about himself both as a person and a fighter.
That approach along with his dedication as a whole to the sport earned him the immediate respect of the Moloney twins.
“That sort of mindset is how you continue to get better as a boxer,” Jason told foxsports.com.au.
“You can’t be happy or be complacent with where you are at, you have to give yourself new challenges every day.
“He [Harry] tries to get himself into an awkward situation and overcome those fears and just continue to grow.”
Only seven years ago Garside had watched Jason’s brother Andrew claim gold for Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
He had seen first-hand “how hard” Andrew had trained and for that to translate into a gold medal – “it makes you believe you can do it”.
Garside is now the one instilling that same belief in the next crop of young Australian boxers.
“[To] bring back a medal for the first time in Australian boxing in over 30 years, to do that is massive for the sport and inspiring the next generation, especially for amateurs that it is possible to win medals at these huge tournaments,” Andrew told foxsports.com.au.
“Before that result it did really seem impossible.”
Now that Garside has achieved the “impossible”, naturally attention turned to what is next for Australia’s bronze medallist.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP AND A BIGGER DREAM
The 24-year-old will go professional soon enough, telling ‘The Main Event Boxing Podcast’ a spot on the undercard at one of Paul Gallen’s upcoming fights could be a target.
For the time being he wants to capitalise on what he knows best.
“I’ve got to sit down with the Combat Institute and Boxing Australia and really discuss what the rules are they are going to implement around turning pro and staying amateur,” Garside said.
“It’s going to be interesting. If we can do both I’ll probably do both. I’ve got more of an amateur style and when I turn pro, I’m definitely going to have to knuckle down and change a few things, which I can do, but I’ll definitely do an amateur style now.
“While I’ve still got that really strong amateur style, I might just focus on that and have a few pro fights here and there.”
The early stages of Andrew Moloney’s career mirrored that of Garside in many ways, having lost his first seven amateur fights before quickly establishing himself as one of the country’s best up-and-coming prospects.
A gold at the Commonwealth Games soon followed before he turned professional.
With that in mind and having sparred and trained with Garside before, there are few people better placed to assess the 24-year-old’s chances of following a similar path.
“I think he can definitely do it,” Andrew said.
“His style is probably more of an amateur style than when I used to box in the amateurs so he definitely probably has to make a few adjustments if he moves to professional boxing.
“But as I said he is a super hard worker and dedicated so if that is what he decides to do I am sure he can make those changes.”
Wherever Garside’s career goes from this point, all he wants to do is make his family proud… and see just how far a lad from Lilydale can go.
When he has found the answer to that question, there is a bigger dream.
“Ideally I want to open a gym in a low socio-economic area in Melbourne or Sydney for kids and they can come train for free,” Garside said.
Whether it takes them all the way to Tokyo is irrelevant.
“I don’t care about making good fighters,” he added.
“I just want to make good humans.”