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24 MAY 2018

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Garth Wood - "I want Gennady Golovkin"

By Cody Kaye: Australian boxer Garth Wood knows all about long shots. In 2009, the former first grade rugby league player rocketed into stardom, winning the Australian ’The Contender’ series as a virtual unknown.


At the time, Wood was 31 years of age, and boasted just eight professional fights. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the series, but the late withdrawal of Shannan Taylor saw him earn a call-up. The rest, as they say, is history.


Wood’s reward for winning ’The Contender’ was a shot at two-time World Champion Anthony “The Man” Mundine. Wood was given next to no hope of beating Mundine, but five rounds into their supposed mismatch, he caused one of the biggest upsets in Australian boxing history. Mundine was left unconscious on the canvas.


Wood’s camp hastily agreed to a lucrative rematch, but he lost a close, unanimous, 10 round decision. That was two years ago, and Wood’s only fights since have been a points loss to highly-rated compatriot Sam Soliman, and a knock out win over Toagasilimai Letoa in the light heavyweight division in February.


Injuries, and an inability to find quality opponents willing to fight him, have put the brakes on Wood’s career. Now, at the age of 34, he’s preparing for one more long shot as he goes in search of a middleweight World Title.


“I want to challenge myself,” reveals Wood.


“This is personal to me. I want to fight the best. That’s why I’m at middleweight again. It’s a glamorous division with big names and big fights."


"I know I need to earn my shot, but ultimately I want the WBA Champion Gennady Golovkin. Nobody wants to get in the ring with that guy – but I’m not afraid to dream big. I’ll give him the fight of his life. But before that happens, I’ve gotta get past Kalakoda.”


Wood makes his return to the ring against South African Virgil Kalakoda, on Thursday May 16, at the Melbourne Pavilion. It’s a fight Wood should win and he knows that he can forget Golovkin if he fails.


“Virgil’s a very tough guy,”acknowledges Wood.


“He’s been in there with some experienced fighters, and his old man was a fighter so it’s in his blood. Kalakoda comes to fight, he won’t run – this is going to be an awesome fight.’’


In Wood’s corner is Australian Hall of Fame trainer Johnny Lewis – a man Wood has known since he walked into the Newtown PCYC as a young kid looking for a fight.


“Yeah, old Johnny,” smiles Wood, “he’s known me all my life. He and my old man have been mates since I was a kid. To be honest, he was the first bloke to show me how to hold my hands up. It’s great I’ve been able to channel back into my boxing career and get Johnny along. He’s a great motivator and it’s a natural fit.”


Lewis has shaped many of Australia’s greatest boxing careers; training World Champions like Kostya Tszyu, Jeff Harding and Jeff Fenech. Now he believes it’s Wood’s turn.


“He’s a fighter, Garth,” says Lewis.


“All guts and determination - he’s always fought whoever they’ve put in front of him. He’s a throwback to the good old days. He just goes along with his little bag in his hands with his gloves in it and gets in with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Few fighters can say they did the same."


"He’s old school, very much so. But now he just needs a big fight. Time probably isn’t on his side, but if anyone can do it, Garth can.”



Wood might be ’old school’, but he’s learnt a few new tricks along the way. In the past, he’s struggled to make the middleweight limit, spending long, draining hours in the sauna. Now, with a new team that includes dietician Ray Kelly, Wood believes his days of destructive wasting to make weight are finally over.


“Ray Kelly has been amazing in terms of helping me make weight in a professional manner. I usually walk around about 85 kilos, so it’s never easy getting to 72. But now I know all the tips, like the right times to eat, how much water I need to drink to flush myself out, how to lose weight, keep the strength, and still actually be able to eat."


"Ray has just enabled me to make weight in a healthy, well rounded way. A few years ago I had that Rugby League mentality of just flogging myself on road runs, and basically I’d always overdo it – now I know the secret is quality, not just quantity.”


Wood is also promising a more professional approach inside the ring. His natural power and a willingness to brawl have always ensured a tough show, but now fans can also expect to see their man box.


“I can’t run away from brawling,” winks Wood.


“It’s my natural instinct, but Johnny is always telling me not to bang too hard – to wait and just pull the trigger when I need to. I know how to go to work and chisel away these days – I don’t need to go for the knock out every time."


"The challenge isn’t knocking blokes out, it’s boxing them. I want to be regarded as a good, clever thinker that knows how to break his opponents down.”


In many ways, May 16 is Garth Wood’s second coming. If he is ever going to become a World Champion, it starts with Kalakoda, and from there it only gets tougher. That’s exactly how Wood wants it.


“I’d rather try, and fail, than not try at all. I believe in what I’m doing, and I’m gonna bring it all to life on Thursday."


"They call me Mr Make Believe,” he smiles.


“If I believe it, I can bring to life. And trust me, I believe it."

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