Niagara-on-the-Lake boxer Mckenzie Wright has fought her way to the quarterfinals of the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
The diminutive Wright scored a 3-2 decision over Aylin Dayana Jamez of Guatemala on Saturday afternoon in her first bout in the 50-kilogram weight class at Santiago’s Olympic Training Centre.
“This is the biggest stage I’ve ever fought on by far and I couldn’t help but smile stepping into the ring,” Wright said in a message from Chile.
“It was Saturday night. I was the first fight, so the stadium was roaring for the fighters to come out,” she added.
“Waiting in the tunnel to walk out in front of the crowd I felt so excited. I’ve never felt an ambience that electric.”
Wright, 33, who’s a nurse in Niagara when she’s not boxing, dominated the first round of the match.
They fight three-minute rounds with a one-minute break.
In rounds two and three the smaller Jamez opted for a more brawling style to try to make some headway on the judges’ scorecards. It wasn’t enough.
The Guatemalan boxer was competing as an independent because the International Olympic Committee has suspended her Central American nation’s Olympic committee from membership in the IOC.
There’s a lot at stake for these fighters as they are all hoping for a shot at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
In Chile, the top two finishers in each weight class automatically book their ticket to Paris.
Wright needs two more wins to reach the finals.
On Saturday, there was lots of clinching and close-quarter trading of shots, but the Canadian was the clear winner overall.
“Of course, there were nerves, but I felt confident in myself and focused, and that is probably what showed through,” the St. Davids resident said.
“Once I threw my first punches, the nerves went away and I just had to fight.”
Her next fight is Tuesday. She had a training session Sunday morning “to keep sharp and now I will just be resting and staying focused on my task.”