In her first professional fight, Gartner walked into the ring to the strains of Sweet Caroline. She held her own in a relatively uneventful opening round and landed the first clean blow of the second. But as soon as Harris worked out her opponent and found her range, she dominated.
“As a boxer, as much as you don’t want to be, when someone is affected by a punch, exhaustion, whatever it might be, it’s your job to act on it,” Harris said.
“I recognised an opportunity, obviously Renee turned a little but and I turned her back around and kept going.
“Previously I might have let her straighten up but I’ve learnt boxing isn’t about that, if you give them a chance they’ll take it.
“I didn’t let her have a chance.”
The fighters were cordial enough at the weigh-in. While the rest of the fighters gave each other their best death stares as they faced off, Harris and Gartner struggled to suppress giggles. Once they got down to business, it was Harris who had the last laugh.
Harris had the greater boxing experience and it showed. The 22-year-old came in undefeated after five previous fights, although her last one was a lost opportunity. The judges couldn’t split her and Sarah Harris, meaning she failed in her bid to snare the Australian middleweight title. Now she has set her sights on having another crack at it.
“Absolutely, I’d love that opportunity again, I’m sure it will be there,” she said.
“I will take it as soon as it comes up, whenever that is.”
There was no shortage of support for Harris. Carlton teammates Kirby Bentley and Jess and Sarah Hosking were among the thousands in attendance at the First State Super Centre for one of the most impressive boxing cards assembled in Sydney.
Both women overcame significant obstacles to get there. Harris was trolled by a platoon of anonymous keyboard warriors over her famous Australian rules photo, none of whom would have the courage to share their sentiments if facing her in the ring.
Gartner has also fought bigger battles than this, overcoming crippling bouts of depression and sharing her story in a bid to help others. Both left the arena with their reputations enhanced.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.