24/04/2024

Tiana Echergaray will be looking for podium success at this year's Olympic Games. (Image: Supplied / Design: Theo Dimou).

Competing as a boxer wasn’t initially the plan for Tiana Echergaray. But in the years since she decided to pursue the sport, she can’t imagine herself doing anything else.

After the conclusion of a two-week training camp in Canberra, Echergaray is now focused firmly on an upcoming trip to Germany, where she’ll be continuing her preparations ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games this year.

“[It’s] really good to get back in there, fight again and sorta just get out of holiday mode,” she told The Inner Sanctum.

“Now I’m back home, just getting back into my normal routine. It feels good. It’s tough but it’s so far so good.

“I’m enjoying the routine of things and getting everything in order before we head to Germany.”

Having first booked her ticket for Paris during last year’s Pacific Games, Echergaray has already begun her next steps towards the big event. Her qualification will see her among the 12-strong squad that will be at the event later this year in July. It also marks the first Olympic campaign for her.

“I’m really looking forward to [the Olympics]. I anticipate it’s gonna be one of the toughest but most exciting times of my life,” she shared.

“[Qualifying is] definitely one of the happiest moments of my life. I think I felt a massive sense of relief, honestly. Just a big weight lifted off my shoulders.

“It had been so much hard work and preparation leading up to [the Pacific Games].

“So just to have qualified and just know that everything I worked so hard for paid off was just a really incredible feeling.”

Echergaray had never been interested in sports, sharing that she only wanted to keep herself active without doing the typical gym workout routines.

She eventually found her calling, falling in love with boxing after she immersed herself within the community.

“I started in box fitness classes, just as a means of exercise and just to keep myself busy in the gym. Doing something as opposed to just being in a commercial gym doing mundane, boring workouts. I hated that,” she said.

“[When] I started a box fit class, I met some women in the industry that were very good boxers, who sort of sparked my interest and raised some curiosities there as to what was going on in boxing.

“It was so much more than what met the eye to me at first. I just thought I got to know more, I got to know what’s going on here because these girls look so badass. I want to look as cool as them.”

It wasn’t until an encounter with boxing instructor Anton Shalom, that Echergaray considered taking the sport more seriously.

“He suggested that I try and compete,” she recalled. 

“Competing wasn’t really the plan. I never would have thought that I’d compete in boxing but as soon as I started competing, which was just after Covid, it was giving me something to do during that time to keep me busy.

“Then as soon as I started fighting I couldn’t stop. I just kept putting my hands up for fights. I kept winning and then before I knew it some doors were opening. Opportunities were presenting themselves to me.”

As she began to take the sport more seriously, she accelerated quickly as a fighter. Entering her first Olympics campaign, Echergaray will embark on the next chapter of her boxing journey which includes two national championship titles and a current fight record of 21-5-0. 

Echergaray with trainer Anton Shalom. (Image: Supplied.)

“Winning my first nationals was probably one of my finest career highlights I would say. It really changed the course of my life after that,” she said.

“I ended up travelling all over the world and representing Australia at different tournaments. Boxing took me to places that I didn’t even realise it could take me.”

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As big of a positive impact the culture of boxing had on her, transitioning into competitive boxing had its initial fair share of challenges for Echergaray, who had started boxing when she was ‘about 25 [or] 26 years old’.

“I don’t think I would of had the emotional or mental capacity to fight and compete when I was much younger. I think it’s taken me some life experience to be okay with getting punched in the face,” she admitted.

For Echergaray, she quickly realised the importance of dealing with the physical as well as the mental challenges that come with the sport. Whilst she says that she’s had ‘a few tough fights’, she admits that a recent bout against an ‘incredibly skilled’ fighter from Great Britain standouts as a significant impact on her.

“That fight was very tough in that I couldn’t find an answer for the problem that she was. That was definitely, extremely tough in the sense that I just didn’t have the tools to beat her,” she explained.

Nowadays, she’s comfortable with taking things as they come, however difficult they might be. Whilst her ‘most toughest fights’ are behind her, she’s become accustomed to the physical and mental challenges that come with being a boxer.

“That’s probably one of the hardest things of the sport,” she said.

“They call boxing the loneliest sport. But the reality of the situation is that whilst you are doing a lot of the training by yourself, you can’t actually do it without the support of the people around you.

“So you need a good coach, you need good family support. You know, if you’ve got a partner at home, that helps to have someone at home you know, talking you through your bad days and your good days.”

Echergaray in action during a training session. (Image: @theboxingbook)

Echergaray is used to having a tight-knit family form part of her inner circle. Being of Cook Island heritage, she’s used to being surrounded with family and friends as it’s ‘a really huge part’ of her life.

For her, everything is managed around her training schedule. With boxing always at the forefront of her mind, family time, along with being close to the water, going for runs and spending time with her partner is beneficial for her Olympic preparations.

“It is really important for me to have that family time so I can feel balanced and you know, have that separation because boxing is all very consuming and I need some time out away from it sometimes. Otherwise, it becomes my whole life and I have to remind myself that boxing isn’t everything,” she said.

“[Boxing] is always on my mind, you have to be quite obsessed with boxing to actually get good at it I feel. You gotta be a little bit nuts about boxing and be fascinated by it and enjoy the process of learning more and more with boxing. Otherwise, you can probably develop an unhealthy relationship with boxing.

“So you need to love it, because if you want to go far and you want to do well in something like the Olympics, you have to be doing it every single day. It’s consistent.”

As while as her Olympic preparations, Echergaray is also a boxing instructor over in Sydney. Whilst the balancing act between the two can be “tricky”, she shares that she adores the work that she does.

“I think you’re consistently having to manage the balance of my training and everything else that’s going on in my life. I love teaching though, so that always helps you know. I love the positive impact it has on people and I love sharing the knowledge I’ve learnt on my journey.

“I feel that I’m having a positive impact on these people and I have a lot of things to share with them. So, it’s not too hard to teach because I feel that my presence with a lot of my team members in the gym. It’s of value and I enjoy it, I love teaching,” she said.

With the Olympics nearing closer to us each day, training is already in full focus for Echergaray. With time rapidly approaching the major sporting event, she made a confession during the conversation that she’s “still in the process of figuring out” what’s next for her following the conclusion of the Olympics.

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“The Olympics are the pinnacle of boxing really,” she conceded.

For Echergaray, she is still undecided on her future. It hasn’t helped that the Commonwealth Games is still up in the air, following Victoria and more recently, the Gold Coast’s decision to withdraw their bid for the event.

Whilst questions mark surround whether the event will proceed in time for 2026, Echergaray is hopeful that she’ll be able to qualify for her first one.

As for going professional in her sport, that is one thing that she’s “not 100 per cent” certain about.

“It’s kind of it’s own beast. You’re not with the Australian team anymore, you’re by yourself. You have to be able to sell tickets, and it’s like running a business essentially. It does sound like a whole other beast to tame,” she said.

“I’ve never enjoyed the show of boxing either. You know, the bright lights, music, everything that goes with being a professional boxer. Talking at press conferences, things like that. It doesn’t interest me very much.

“But never say never. I’ve done a lot more than what I thought I’d ever do so I’m keeping my doors opened and my options open just sort of depends at where my heads at that point and what opportunities come my way.

“I do think I will 100 per cent be involved in boxing. Like I still want to coach, I still think I have some knowledge to share with people like who are starting to box or who want to compete.

“So I think I’ll definitely be involved at some capacity for sure.”

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