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‘Crouching Tiger’ grabs gold

Thursday 17 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Boxing, Sports


‘Crouching Tiger’ grabs gold
Ratu Mato, Polly Mato, Jancey Mato, Tiana Baker-Echegaray and Ripaea Mato at the Australian Amateur Boxing finals in Perth, Australia. RATU MATO/23081606

Cook Islander Tiana Baker-Echegaray, nicknamed the ‘Crouching Tiger’, has emerged victorious at the Australian Amateur Boxing Championships, winning gold in the bantamweight division over the weekend.

The championships serve as the 2023 Pacific Games qualifier and Baker-Echegaray is hoping to gain her spot on the Australian team.

The Pacific Games, a continental multi-sport event for Oceania countries and territories, is scheduled to be held in Honiara, Solomon Islands between 19 November and 2 December.

Baker-Echegaray said: “Winning gold at this event means it puts me in a good position to be selected for the team (Pacific Games).”

At the end of this month, she heads into camp at The Australian Institute of Sport for more training.

Following the final assessments on the boxers’ performances at the sports institution, Australia will then announce their Pacific Games team.

“With all this in mind I’m feeling optimistic about my position but I’m also aware that there is still more work to do before I can celebrate,” Baker-Echegaray said.

“If I am successful in being selected for the Pacific Games, I believe I will have to win gold at this event in order to be considered for the Olympic team.”

Her mother Tongia Baker-Mato said: “We are incredibly proud of Tiana’s achievement. She has put in countless hours of hard work and dedication to reach this point.”

“Her determination, commitment and courage have overcome the challenges and setbacks, and she is achieving her goals.”

Cook Islanders living in Perth, Ratu Mato, his wife Polly and their daughter Jancey, and his sister Ripaea, attended Baker-Echegaray’s semi-final and final bouts at the Rendezvous Hotel in Scarborough.

Mato said: “We were quite shocked to see the ‘Crouching Tiger’ in Tiana come out in the ring, she had such focused determination.”

“She may look like a softy, but, its a different story in the ring, she is tenacious.

“We are so proud of Tiana with both her wins. Both her fights were very competitive but she was dominant from the first bell to the end.

“We weren’t expecting to see such a high calibre of the sport, it was outstanding to watch.”

The Matos also learnt a few things about boxing from Baker-Echegaray.

“We learnt from Tiana about how boxers discipline themselves before every match,” said Mato. “Like maintaining your weight, if you weigh in over your weight class you only have a small window of time to run it off or you automatically lose the match, so they are very disciplined.”

Baker-Echegaray discovered boxing in 2019 “as a means of fitness”. Noticing the immediate benefits boxing had on her physical and mental health, she decided to continue with the sport.

She has been undergoing intense training under head coach Anton Shalom and the Knuckleheads Fight Team at No Quarter Boxing and Functional Fitness in Sydney.

With several state champion titles under her belt, she is the Australian Boxing 54kg Bantamweight Champion, having claimed the title last November.

Committed to and focused on reaching her Olympic Games dream, Baker-Echegaray hopes her journey will serve as an inspiration to aspiring Cook Islands athletes, showing the rewards that come with relentless dedication and unwavering determination.