"I'm Wood, I'm good and I'm here to stay"
MUA waterfront worker Garth Wood fights from the front. When he took out the title of Australian Contender in the ring this month, his Port Botany workmates were so pumped his mobile became jammed with text messages.
A former Rabbitohs league player Wood, 31, defeated former Australian light heavyweight champion Kariz Kariuki on January 11 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. And his workmates helped fill the stadium to cheer him on.
It was only his eight professional bout for Wood, but the commentators all agreed he had it in the bag.
"He looked every bit the seasoned pro during the seven-round bout, his overhand right repeatedly bombing Kariuki at close quarters to bankroll victory, " The Daily Telegraph reported.
"What transpired was the stuff of Hollywood, as Wood finished with blood-soaked shorts, the $25,000 winner's cheque and an upcoming fight against three-time world champ Anthony Mundine."
The Fox reality TV show pulled together 14 of Australia's best professional super middleweight boxers and pitted them against each other, all on camera. The one left standing gets to fight The Man and the chance for the $250,000 prize money in March.
Garth took out the Australian Contender on split points against Karuiki. It was his right hand punches that hit home in the first two rounds. But Kariuki drew blood in the third and fourth rounds, opening up cuts to his left eye and cheek. Garth finished the match with a fractured wrist.
Three minutes from the final round his trainer Billy Hussein roared: "Brother - this is a Cinderella Story".
Garth grew up in Sydney's west. Tough. He joined the waterfront with Stannards in 2002 as a casual. The nephew of Sydney Deputy Branch Secretary Glen Wood, Garth has worked for Ausport Marine for five years as linesmen juggling his 12-hour shifts on the water, cleaning gyms and training with family.
"I train in the morning and run in the afternoon," he said. "It's not easy, but I'm determined. It's something I love and I've got to take care of my daughters.
Along with the pride and the prize money, the biggest victory for Garth was winning his battle with depression.
"I'd been in a pretty dark place," said Garth. "I'd been through a major separation with my wife and in a state of depression 12 months when the knock came on my door. It got me back to my dream. And it taught me that even when you're going through a rough trot, never give up."
Garth's two daughters Mia, 11 and Billie, 8 were brought into the stadium at fights end to witness their dad take the trophy.
"I didn't want them to watch the fight, " he said. "But I knew I was going to win and I wanted them there to see that. As soon as I won I raised them up above my shoulders. They were so proud of me - over the moon."
Garth Wood has won 7 of his eight fights, with three knockouts. He was undefeated on the Contender.
"I'd like to thank all the boys who work on the water with me a very big thank you," he said. " And remember, If you've got dreams, stick to them. Life gets tough but you got to be persistent."