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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Top of her class: St. Davids boxer is fighting her way to the Paris 2024 Olympics. Next stop, Pan Am qualifiers
Mckenzie Wright will fight at the Pan Am qualifiers in Cali, Colombia, in August. If she places in the top four, she’ll advance to the Pan Am Games in Chile. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright will fight at the Pan Am qualifiers in Cali, Colombia, in August. If she places in the top four, she’ll advance to the Pan Am Games in Chile. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright, a boxer from St. Davids, has her eyes set on the 2024 Paris Olympics. (Somer Slobodian)
Mckenzie Wright, left, with coach Jesse Sallows at City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls. (Somer Slobodian)

St. Davids boxer dominates competition in pursuit of Olympic dream


St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright is dominating Canadian amateur boxing in her weight class as she fights her way toward a dream of representing her country at the Olympics.

The road to the Olympic Games is long and difficult, but the powerful Niagara-on-the-Lake pugilist has just taken a big step along it – she earned the chance to qualify for the Pan American Games, which are in Chile in October.

She’ll travel to Colombia in August for a shot at the Pan Am Games – and then maybe the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“People always ask me, ‘Do you think you want to try for the Olympics?’ And I would always say, ‘I’m not good enough,’ ” she told The Lake Report.

“But now I’m here and it’s a reality. It’s a possibility now,” she added.

Wright dominated the 2023 Pan American Games Domestic Qualification Competition at the INS Quebec sports complex in Montreal last week, coming out number one in all of Canada in the 50-kilogram weight class.

Now, the Niagara College nursing student will fight in the Pan Am qualifiers in Cali, Colombia, in August. The top four from that competition will advance to the Pan Am Games.

The Pan Ams in October in Santiago are a direct qualification competition for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, meaning the top two finishers will earn a trip to Paris.

Wright won the national title back in February at the Canadian Elite Championships in Brampton in the 48-kilogram class.

Since 48 kilograms is not an Olympic weight class, she had to move up to the 50-kilogram category for last week’s tournament. 

As she prepared for Montreal, Wright said she didn’t talk to many people outside of her bubble for two weeks prior to the competition to really focus on her mental training. 

When it was almost fight time, she made sure she listened to her favourite pump-up song in her hotel room — “The Champion” by Carrie Underwood

“That’s the one that sets my mind to dig deep, then go for it,” she said. 

After drawing a bye last Monday night, she had her first match on Wednesday against Grace Fahnbulleh from New Brunswick

She went in focused and determined — and with a strong right hand. 

“My most effective weapon was my right hand,” she said. 

“My right knuckles are still sore from it, just from that fight because there were so many that were landed,” she added.

She said she won on all five score cards and dominated all three rounds. 

On Thursday, only one competitor stood between her and the chance to represent Canada at the qualifiers in Cali: British Columbia’s Nyousha Nakhjiri. 

“This one was definitely more messy,” said Wright. 

“There was more wrestling, more grabbing. I thought she brought a more competitive edge than the first one,” she added.

But Wright didn’t let that get to her — she was still able to outbox her opponent and come out on top in all three rounds.

“Before they even announced the decision, we knew we had it. It was really exciting,” she said. 

Wright returned to boxing less than two years ago after a four-year hiatus and quickly rose to the top while balancing full-time studies at nursing school. 

Not only is she number one in Canada, now she gets to represent her country in Colombia in August. 

“I was in tears at the end when she won,” said Jesse Sallows, Wright’s coach at City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls.

“It was just the biggest moment to date,” he added.

Not only was it a big moment for Wright and Sallows, but also for their gym.

“Every coach’s dream is to have someone go on the international stage and represent Canada, but also your gym,” he said. 

Pursuing her nursing degree has complicated life for Wright while she chases her Olympic dream. 

“All my other competitors, they magically become full-time boxers, they found sponsors, they found funding,” and preparing for competition is all they have to worry about, she said.

In addition to full-time training, Wright also works full-time nights as a nurse, without pay, while she completes her nursing hours.

The road to the Pan Am Games isn’t cheap and Team Canada doesn’t pitch in, she said. 

So Wright is hoping to find a sponsor sooner rather than later. 

“It’s going to be about $10,000 to get to the Pan American Games,” said Wright. 

To help with financial costs, Wright has set up a GoFundMe and will also be holding a meet and greet fundraiser at the Sand Trap Pub & Grill on July 19. 

There will be photo opportunities and raffle prizes at the fundraiser, and a chance to learn more about Wright. 


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