Tamieka and Teya Garcia are making inroads in the boxing industry despite a life-threatening health condition that complicates their efforts to step inside the ring.
- Teya and Tamieka Garcia box and train despite living with type-1 diabetes
- Teya, 14, has been hospitalised twice with ketoacidosis as she prepared her body for a bout
- Tamieka, 20, last year became Australia’s youngest boxing promoter
The sisters train and fight out of their own boxing gym in Barrack Heights on the New South Wales South Coast.
Both have type-1 diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
Complications can be lethal for athletes — 14-year-old Teya said she almost died twice preparing for her debut fight last year.
“I knew Tamieka was organising the promotion and we decided I would be on the card,” Teya said.
“I weighed around 53 kilograms and they found me an opponent, but she was 48kg, so I had to drop to meet her so we could fight.”
Tamieka coached her sister Teya (right) through her boxing debut last year. (ABC Illawarra: Selby Stewart)
Teya was hospitalised trying to make weight, a process that is controversial and dangerous for professional fighters, and riskier still for a type-1 diabetic.
“I hit 51kg, but then next thing I know I was in hospital with ketoacidosis,” she said.
“My blood was acidifying and the doctors said it would be fatal if I didn’t get treated.
“But to be honest, I was more worried about missing training.”
Sister support in and outside the ring
It was one of two hospital stays for the young fighter, who harbours dreams of a professional debut.
And she admitted there were times when she felt like giving up.
“But I’ve always wanted to be different to other girls at school,” she said.
“When you’re in the gym you’re a family, just a different kind of family, and I wasn’t going to give that up.”
Her coach and fellow fighter is 20-year-old Tamieka, who last year became Australia’s youngest boxing promoter when she hosted a sold-out fight night at Towradgi Beach.
One hour to live
In 2012, Tamieka suffered her own episode of ketoacidosis, one so severe that doctors were unsure she would survive.
“They told my mother that I had about one hour to live when I arrived at hospital,” she said.
“They said I’d never play sport again, let alone box.”
She has since had six fights, losing just once.
“I’ve never really fit into a group, and once I found combat sports, I found I could do what I wanted — it was an outlet.
“[Diabetes] is a challenge, but we do what we have to do to keep going.”
The sisters have organised another promotion in June, a plan that may be abandoned due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
And, before every fight, comes the risk of another hospital visit.
“We don’t like looking too far ahead anyway, because with our own medical conditions, you never know what is right around the corner,” Tamieka said.
“But we like proving people wrong.”
This story was filmed prior to the shutdown of gyms due to coronavirus.