By Craig Watt
In The Australian Contender Final at the Sydney Entertainment Centre big underdog Garth Wood (7-1, 3 KO’s) outpointed Kenyan Kariz Kariuki, (21-8-1, 18 KO’s) in an absorbing contest and won the first prize of $25,000 but perhaps more importantly secured a future match up with former two time WBA super-middleweight champion Anthony Mundine – with it a guaranteed purse of $250,000. He won by split decision over seven rounds on the scorecards by 68-66 and 68-65 with the third judge amazingly scoring the fight 66-68 to Kariuki at the 168 pound super-middleweight limit for the tournament.
The 31 year old Wood was only added to the series of 14 fighters from a reserve list when Shannon Taylor dropped out injured just before the series started and he took his opportunity with determination in just his eighth professional fight in a true “Cinderella Story”.
Kariz Kariuki was rated WBO#8 at super-middleweight going into the bout and was the overwhelming favourite whilst Wood was a professional Rugby Player until his first fight in 2007.
Kariuki enjoyed superior height and reach advantage and was able to push Wood backwards with controlled boxing in the opening round but the 31 year old Wood from Sydney advanced with determination and landed three heavy right hands which visibly hurt the Kenyan each time they landed in the final minute.
In the second round Wood sensed his opportunity for victory and punished Kariuki to the ropes and stunned his opponent again with a crisp right hand for the fourth time. He succeeded in turning the fight into a brawl which played to his advantage. A retaliatory right a hand from Kariuki in the last thirty seconds re-opened a bad cut which Wood had carried since the semi-final.
The cut seemed to give Kariuki some enthusiasm in the third and the fight reverted back to Kariuki boxing well on the outside using his jab effectively. When Wood advanced into the ropes, Kariuki was now turning his opponent as he moved to the right and won the third.
In the fourth a huge right hand wobbled Kariuki again in the centre of the ring and Wood turned the initiative back into a brawl but the Kenyan did land some effective long right hands but not enough to win the round.
By the time the fifth round opened the corner of Kariuki were demanding an increased effort and Wood did seemed to be tired in the opening minute. Midway through the round the doctor inspected the cut over Woods left eye which was worsening and this seemed to bring a sense of urgency to Wood and pushed Kariuki back to the ropes looking to finish the fight before his eye worsened.
In the final round Wood was bloodied over both eyes and tired after a dogged performance but still maintained the pressure and pushed Kariuki to the ropes to close out a deserved decision victory.