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Friday, March 24, 2023
BREAKING NEWS: St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright wins Canadian championship; Next stop Pan Am qualifiers and maybe Paris Olympics
St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright has been training hard for the national championships in Brampton this weekend. (Somer Slobodian)
The training is tough, but for St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright, it's her favourite part of the day. (Somer Slobodian)
McKenzie Wright works out with coach Jesse Sallows, prepping for the national championships in Brampton. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright is focused as she trains on the speed bag. (Somer Slobodian)
St. Davids boxer, Mckenzie Wright, has been training hard for the nationals in Brampton this weekend. (Somer Slobodian)
McKenzie Wright trains with her coach Jesse Sallows for this weekend's national championships. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright hits the heavy bag during her training session at City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls. (Somer Slobodian)
McKenzie Wright trains six days a week, sometimes twice in one day, in preparation for the national championships in Brampton this weekend. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright is focused as she trains on the speed bag. (Somer Slobodian)
Amateur fighter Mckenzie Wright works out on the speed bag at City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls. She competes in the national championships starting Thursday. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright in the ring during her last match on Jan. 14. (Supplied)
Mckenzie Wright packs a powerful punch during her last match on Jan. 14. (Supplied)
Mckenzie Wright will fight at the national championships this weekend in Brampton. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright works out at the City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls.(Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright knows how to throw a powerful punch. (Somer Slobodian)

NEWS UPDATE: Saturday, Feb. 4 – Mckenzie Wright of St. Davids won the Canadian amateur boxing championship Saturday night, scoring a third-round technical knockout over her opponent.

With the win, Wright now will compete for a chance to represent Canada at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, in October. It’s a long road, but success at the Pan Ams could lead to a berth in the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

On Saturday, in the first bout of the evening, Wright rocked her opponent, Naomie Larouche of Quebec, to win the 48-kilogram weight class at the Canadian Elite Championships in Brampton.

The Niagara fighter scored a standing eight count against Larouche in the second round and followed with three more standing eight counts in quick succession in the third.

An uppercut from Wright ended it, and the referee stopped the fight in the third round, giving her a victory by technical knockout.

More to come


Earlier update:

Fighter advances to finals

NEWS UPDATE #1: Friday, Feb. 3 – St. Davids amateur boxer Mckenzie Wright drew a bye in her first-round of competition at the Canadian Elite Championships in Brampton, sending her directly to Saturday night’s final.

She’ll fight for gold in the 7 p.m. session. Because the top two boxers advance to the Summer Olympics qualifying round, just by virtue of making the final Wright will have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic qualifiers later this year.

The Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, in October will be her chance to again represent Canada and to battle for the chance to go to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.


Original story, published Thursday, Feb. 2:

The Wright stuff: St. Davids boxer competing in national championship and maybe a shot at Olympics

It was game over when amateur boxer Mckenzie Wright hit her opponent with a clean right hand and rocked her with a firm left hook.

It took Wright about 20 seconds to shake American champion Jasmine Hampton’s confidence in the boxing ring in Detroit last March.

It was Wright’s first match back after about a four-year hiatus – and she told almost no one she was doing it. No need for any added pressure.

She was competing in the 54-kilogram weight class, a bit above her usual 48-kilogram category.

But that didn’t bother her. She’s always liked being an underdog and there was something satisfying about watching a bigger dog hit the mat.

She remembers the smug look in Hampton’s eyes when they met at the weigh-in.

“She just looked at me like I was a joke,” says Wright.

Little did Hampton know, Wright already had about 50 matches under her belt.

When the five foot four Canadian hit her with the right-left combination she felt her opponent’s confidence shift.

Two rounds later, she had won a split decision over Hampton, an 11-time U.S. national champion fighting in her own hometown. And Wright had been out of the ring for four years.

“That was very satisfying,” she says with a grin, the Wright stuff confidently on display.

She tries not to worry about her competitors, though. For her bout with Hampton, “I was just focused on me.”

Wright lives in St. Davids with her parents, Dow and Judy, but grew up in Oakville.

She has been boxing on and off for 15 years and when she’s not in the ring, she’s studying nursing at Niagara College.

Juggling school and boxing can be a “nightmare,” she admits

“It’s definitely more draining on the mind than it is on the body,” she adds.

Wright seems to thrive on competition. In 2010, she became only the second Canadian to win national titles in both boxing and kickboxing in the same year.

She’s also a two-time national champion in amateur boxing and remembers one of her matches quite fondly.

“I was definitely the underdog. And I drew the girl who had been on the national team for a few years. She was very experienced.”

No worries. “I came out and smoked her.”

In amateur boxing, boxers fight three rounds, each three minutes long. Fighters are required to wear protective headgear.

Wright says she trains hard to prepare and never feels unsafe even if she’s in the ring with a bigger or stronger opponent.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a hard shot here and there. But we’re taught to monitor for any concussion symptoms,” she says.

In 2017, she took a few years off and lived in South Africa where she worked taking visitors on safari tours.

When the pandemic began in 2020, she had two options — come home or get stuck in South Africa behind locked-down borders.

She hopped on the second-last flight back to Canada.

She wasn’t planning on training again until her friend Mandy Bujold, who was preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, asked if she wanted to join her training camp.

“That’s kind of what sparked my training to get back into it. So, we sparred together every week for months,” Wright says.

Now, she has her sights set on winning the Elite National Championships in Brampton. She’ll be competing for the national title in the 48-kilogram weight class from Feb. 2 to 5.

A finish in the top two at the nationals and she’ll “be able to jump into one of the Olympic categories and go to the (Olympic) qualifiers,” she says.

If that happens, she would be competing in the 50-kilogram Olympic division in her bid to fight in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Making it to the Olympic qualifiers would mean a big change – she’d need to find sponsors to help defray costs, since the road to amateur glory and representing your country is an expensive one.

“In Canada, we don’t get the funding, even if you are on the national team or on the Olympic team. So much of it is self-funded,” she says.

Wright trains at the City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls six days a week with her coach Jesse Sallows, a two-time Golden Glove champion himself.

Competing in the nationals has been Wright’s goal since he started training her, Sallows says.

“I remember her bringing it up and she’s been so focused on it.”

Training is her favourite part of the day, Wright says as she sits on a large tire in the gym.

In addition to working out at City Boxing Club, she trains on her own at least three times a week.

If she’s not in school, she’ll train twice daily, six days a week.

“She’s a great role model for all the other boxers because she doesn’t come here and play around,” says Sallows.

Wright has been training with him for about a year now and says they clicked right away. She loves his coaching style — which is hands-on, focused and relaxed.

Working out with Sallows a week before the nationals, she’s quick and light on her feet, and seems to float around the ring.

As she dances about, her low bun bounces slightly, her dark blond hair hidden under a black bandana.

Barely 105 pounds, she packs a powerful punch. The sinewy muscles of her sculpted arms stand out with every strike as she pounds the hard sparring pads her coach is holding.

Her favourite punch is the uppercut. Everyone seems to forget about the uppercut, she says.

Sallows is impressed with his protege. “She’s so fast. She throws combinations, four- or five-punch combinations, so quick and just a very strong girl for her weight.”

Leading up to the nationals, she’s been focusing on hard sparring, hitting the hard pads and conditioning inside the gym and out.

That includes sprinting up hills or around the track. In the gym, it means pounding the heavy bag.

A few days before any big competition, she’ll ease up on the workload, she says.

To prepare herself mentally, she’s been working on her focus and positive outlook.

“I have a little book that I’ve read before every fight,” she says.

The book, “Winning State Wrestling,” is about “owning your competitive mentality and not breaking under the pressure.”

Sallows describes his fighter as “a beast” and it seems some others agree.

During the Boxing Ontario provincial championships last November, two opponents dropped out of matches against Wright within 48 hours.

“They were scared, to be honest,” she says.

She ended up winning by a walkover.

That was extremely disappointing, though, since finding competitive matches is a challenge.

She often needs to travel to her bouts, since there are not many female boxers in southern Ontario.

Her division used to be the most competitive, but now she can go months without a match, she says.

Last year, about half a dozen of her scheduled bouts were cancelled.

“I don’t know what happened to all the girls,” she says.

With the national championships this weekend, “I’ve pretty much been training for this, very consistently (with) tunnel vision for the last eight weeks,” Wright says.

And she feels ready.

Even when the crowd is screaming, the adrenalin rushing, she’s zoned in on only one thing.

“I don’t hear anything. I only hear my coach’s voice.”

From the opening bell, she’ll be bobbing and weaving, searching for an opening – a chance to step up and deliver a shot of the Wright stuff.

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