Phoebe: How did you get into boxing? How long was it between your first boxing experience and your first ever competition?
Tina: I started boxing back in 2017, when I was doing it with one of my friends, at a gym. I started off doing the women’s only classes, more about getting fit and losing weight. I started from there and I noticed that I was really good at it. Then I started doing the fighter’s class to have my first fight. I was training for about 6 months before I entered by first competition. I always knew that I was strong – I loved soccer and arm wrestling in school so fighting made sense.
Phoebe: You were the first-ever female Muslim boxer to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games. What was that experience like?
Tina: It was an absolutely awesome experience – I just had so much support from my own Muslim community and had so much support from the broader Australian community. The Commonwealth Games also completely changed my view on amateur boxing. I wanted to turn professional and leave the amateur scene once I got back to Australia but now I really want to go and win gold at the Olympics.
We actually have the World Championships in India next week – it started from the 15th to the 28th of March. It’s actually when Ramadan starts. This means that I’ll be fasting the days I won’t be competing. The days I’m competing I have no choice to not fast – I’ll have to make up with the days I don’t fast. Last year, I had to train during Ramadan – so it was super challenging. At least now, I’ve had really good preparation. I have no choice but to fast, because it’s part of my culture and religion.
Phoebe: How does your faith shape your boxing?
Tina: Massively. When I fight, I believe that everything is in the hands of God. I have gotten up early to pray and fit in extra prayers before I fight. Sometimes, when I really wanted to win, I lose. I’ve had full faith in believing that everything meant to be will be. If I wasn’t meant to win a fight, then I wasn’t meant to win it. And that’s just part of my faith.
For instance, in Bulgaria, I was so calm. Walking out to the ring, I was so confident – because I prayed when coming out. I ended up losing – I was upset but accepted it. So, my faith plays a massive role. Whatever God’s will, will happen. That’s my belief.
Phoebe: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a female boxer? I listened to an interview where you mentioned that some people said you shouldn't be boxing.
Tina: Being a female in a male dominated sport is something that I don’t think is the biggest challenge. I don’t let the hate comments or trolls get to me. The biggest challenges are being outside your comfort zone. And the expectations – if you don’t win. Fans and your team are disappointed. It really puts you down. There are also the challenges associated with not attending social events and seeing other people.
Boxing can be so lonely. You have no social life. You’re constantly travelling – you might have friends, but it’s such a demanding schedule. Even with your family. Everything you do, shows in the ring. If you didn’t train as hard in the ring, you can tell.
Phoebe: How does it feel to participate in a combat sport - especially as a Muslim female?
At first it was quite hard as I wasn’t really a confident person. I thought people would judge me – particularly around wearing a hijab. There was so much hate around Muslims at the time I started fighting. At the time I did put on the hijab – I started wearing it around the time of the Sydney Lindt Café Siege. I did get a few hate comments in the street.
When that happened, I found it hard communicating with people as I thought they were always hating on me. That was really tough going into boxing, especially being a minority as you pretty much don’t see many boxers wearing the hijab. I was used to copping a lot of hate and discrimination because of my decision to wear the hijab. It’s been tough, but now I have grown the confidence. Knowing not everyone judges you for what you’re wearing. Doing what I love and participate in the sport. You do get hate from people around the world but have to choose to ignore it. Female boxers in general do cop a lot of hate. It’s the hardest sport in the world. There’s plenty of men saying we should be in the kitchen.
Do you feel like you’re paving the way for young women?
I feel like I’m showing young women – and young girls in particular, that you can do anything that you want and still be successful. It’s not about how you look and how you dress – as long as you’re consistent and put it in the effort and sacrifice, you can achieve it.
What boxing tip did you learn that changed your style forever?
Always go back to the jab – our main punch is our jab. When you don’t know what to throw in the ring. Always go back to throwing the jab.