Renald Garrido

Go back to the start of September and the name Renald Garrido would mean very little to the UK boxing fans.  Some may be familiar – he has fought on these shores in 2012 and 2013 twice – but his success had been modest.  A career light middleweight, Garrido (15-11-0) has fought mainly in his home country of France, with the occasional trips overseas taking in as well as the UK, trips to Spain, America, Canada and Germany. 
His prominence however rose on Saturday night at the Olympia in Liverpool.  In what was scheduled for an eight round routine win for home fighter Bradley Saunders, the Merseyside crowd were shocked to see the man from France take away the heart of Saunders (12-1-0) amid a disgraceful ending that saw the man from Stockton on Tees disqualified for a deliberate headbutt on Garrido.  It was the sixth round, and the noticeably shorter fighter from France was wailing away on Saunders – body shots, head shots – a ferocious attack that with 19 seconds of the round left saw Saunders turn his back amidst the pressure.  The referee intervened, which lead Garrido to celebrate prematurely believing his nights work was finished.  But referee Steve Gray summoned the two back together, gesticulating that Saunders had been spun around.  The Englishman glanced at his corner men – they couldn’t fight this fight for him.  They waved their hands for Saunders to carry on and see out the round, but Saunders opted not to.
Instead, with 10 seconds left and in clear sight of the referee, Saunders dipped at the knees and crouched at the waist while pushing his head straight under the jaw of Garrido.  The cowards way out?  Possibly.  So was Garrido angry about it?
“Yes a little bit but at the same time it makes me proud to know that a champion like Bradley is reduced to so little he has to abort” Garrido tells me  “I took the head in the jaw very bad but when I was declared the winner I became the happiest boxer in the world and it made me forget the pain!”
You can see the moment that it dawns on him that he has come out victorious.  On initial reaction to the headbutt he recoiled to the corner doubled over, holding the mouth that had been damaged.  Steve Gray indicate on Garrido’s blind side that the fight was over, motioning with the head as Saunders had done seconds earlier.  It is only when Garrido looked up that he saw the fight was over and that he had beaten the former amateur European gold medallist.  That instant adrenaline rush gave him the energy to mount the ropes, waving to the fans who had warmed to his come forward, aggressive style of fighting.  For his part, Saunders claimed that he had broken his hands but offered no excuses for his indiscipline.
Looking back, Garrido tells me that he was both surprised about the win, but confident heading in to the fight.  “I was surprised but I knew I was able because I'm a guy who believes in an optimistic temperament - that when we want to, we can.  The only limits we have in life are those we set for ourselves.”
Those that follow Garrido on Twitter were treated to some wonderful pictures post fight, including him in the crowd with a lion mask on greeting Scott Cardle.  Was there a significance to the mask, and how does a man who has just suffered a headbutt in the ring go on to let his hair down so quickly?  “I am natural and I love laughing, having fun with the world.  Around me is very sad life; wars, poverty, family worries.  When there is a chance to live this life then I must enjoy it thoroughly and thank God for that which is offered to us.  Many of my English fans nicknamed me "Crazy Lion" - I like it!!” he laughs. 
It doesn’t take long to realise that Renaldo is not just someone who enjoys life and is able to make the most of the moment that he lives in, but is also appreciative of the opportunities that he has.  Undoubtedly he was brought over at the weekend to enhance Saunders’ record, not damage it.  He upset the odds (he was an 8/1 underdog pre-fight) but in the process he impressed not only the British fans, but also a number of potential opponents.  It didn’t take long for young Hackney based lightweight Ohara Davies (8-0-0) to take to Twitter to offer up a fight against Garrido.  Is it one that would tempt him back over to England?  “I can not make the effort to get down to 63kg (138.9 lb) but I would like to still be fighting Ohara.  He is a provocative fighter and full of ambition - I like this kind of character that rises the voltage for a fight”.  It’s certainly not a no, but to make the fight happen a catchweight of sorts may be required – it has been over two years since Garrido weighed in at 138lbs for a fight and at 32 years of age he is unlikely to volunteer for the task again.
Renald Garrido
Before any thought can be given to a fight with the unbeaten Davies there is already a fight lined up for Garrido back in France in November, fighting for the French light middleweight title.  Does he think he will pick up the title?  “Yes - that title would be the consecration for me and propel me in the top 5 in Europe.  It is against Franck Petitjean (14-4-3) - it will not be easy even if I am very confident” states the Frenchman. 

Winning that French title would solidify the rise of Garrido.  There are potential fights aside from Ohara Davies back in the UK given the platform he has now built himself.  In the past he has been here to fight Jack Catterall (12-0-0), Robbie Davies Jr (9-0-0) and Martin Lindsay.  Out of the three, who did he find the hardest opponent?  “The fights against Robbie Davies and Catterall were much tighter than the scores that were announced.  In France I would be declared the winner on these two fights.  The best by far was Martin Lindsay but that was a very late change in opponent when I was meant to fight Scott Cardle - Martin Lindsay had the level to be world champion I think.”  High praise for the Northern Irishman who has now not fought in over a year since his loss to Josh Warrington.
With the experience of multiple fights in the UK now and a raised profile within boxing fans, how has Garrido found that boxing supporters have treated him?  “I say all the time that the English are extraordinary, it is an open mind.  The cultural and religious diversity of living together is fantastic.  The English love the show and make the difference between pretension and showman.  When I made my entry with my mask and my lion outfit they applauded me!  And after a number of rounds some supported me because they love the style of boxers go ahead and be aggressive.  I have a small group of English fans on Twitter who support me and encourage me”. 
That group has undoubtedly grown since his escapades in Liverpool at the weekend.  As much as English boxing fans may be tribal in spirit and wish our fighters to do well, we are not afraid to support the away fighter when he shows heart, grit and determination.  Those three things were clearly displayed at the weekend by Garrido – so realistically can we expect to see him back over here soon to earn some more fans?  “I hope to box in 2016 on the lands of UK, I expect that the organizers as Matchroom Promotions and Frank Warren will contact me to confront their stars.”
So finally, has the ‘Crazy Lion’ got any words for the fans who took him to heart at the weekend?  “I thank all the English for their welcome, their way of being and thinking.
I love you all support, English friends.”
And with that we are finished.  Garrido may be a crazy lion but it would take a tinman without a heart not to feel an affection for the man who is happy to travel to fight.  His joviality and enthusiasm in the ring are matched by his humble and fun loving approach to life outside of it – we can only hope that in 2016 we see more of him in the UK and in very different circumstances to last time.