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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Sports: St. Davids boxer another step closer to Paris Olympics
Coach Jesse Sallows offers Mckenzie Wright advice. SUPPLIED
Former Olympian Mandy Bujold and Niagara's Jesse Sallows were in Mckenzie Wright's corner in Montreal. SUPPLIED.
Mackenzie Wright, left, with her coach Jesse Sallows. SUPPLIED
Mckenzie Wright scores a unanimous win over Anne Marcotte. SUPPLIED
Mckenzie Wright, in red, defeated former champion Anne Marcotte on Sunday in Montreal. SUPPLIED

Next stop, Italia.

St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright continued her quest to represent Canada at the 2024 Summer Games by beating a three-time national champion in an Olympic team qualifying tournament in Montreal on the weekend.

It’s the latest step on the long road to making it to the Paris Olympics next July.

The win over former Quebec’s Anne Marcotte in the 50-kilogram means Wright will travel to Italy to compete in a tournament Feb. 29 to March 12. The top four finishers there will qualify for Paris.

As the top seed in Montreal thanks to her bronze medal in the Pan Am Games in Chile in October, Wright got a bye through to the semifinals.

There she trounced Ontario’s Jacklyne Irvine 5-0 in their three-round bout, including a standing eight-count in the middle round.

She then dominated against Marcotte, winning another unanimous decision in the final.

The former national champ is taller than Wright and “she’s got she’s got a longer reach than me so we needed to establish the jab and keep her at my distance.”

“Then boom, when I started landing the first few shots and first few combinations my confidence went through the roof. I knew I had her.”

It also helped having Canadian boxing icon Mandy Bujold and coach Jesse Sallows, of Niagara’s City Boxing Club, in her corner in Montreal.

With only three rounds and nine minutes of boxing, everything happens quickly, Wright noted.

But her experience, especially on the international stage, has been key to helping her handle pressure and adversity.

In a fight, “everything’s going 100 miles an hour. But you have to be able to react at 100 miles an hour. So, if plan A is not not really working, I’ll jump to Plan B. If Plan B is not working, I have Plan C” – and she adjusts in the moment.

While she is clearly one of Canada’s best amateur boxers and has represented the country on the world stage, the entire financial burden of doing so falls on her as an athlete – at least until she qualifies for the Paris Olympics.

“Everything is out of pocket,” she said.

A Niagara College nursing graduate, who still has to write her final board exam in the new year, she’ll have to do some fundraising to help cover her costs.

“I’ll have to be funding a training camp in Montreal in January. Then a training camp in Italy and the competition in Italy,” she said.

“There is another mandatory trip in Colorado sometime in the spring.” And then she’s not sure what all else will be required leading up to Paris.

“Canada is just not a boxing country. We’re a hockey country. If I was on the national hockey team, no problem.”

“Other countries set up their athletes a lot better. Like the U.S. The U.S. pays for all of this.”

But she won’t let that deter her and remains confident in her ability.

“At the Pan Am Games, I was so close to qualifying. And I still believe I won the first and second round of that qualifying fight” against American Jennifer Lozano. But the judges saw it differently.

Looking back on it, “If I got that close, then I think that really proves to me and shows I can qualify. I am at that level.”

“So I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and keep elevating, keep getting that international experience.”

With Christmas approaching, she’s taking one week off (“definitely not two”) and she’ll be back at the gym Monday, working on making her Olympic dream a reality.




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