St. Davids boxer is focused on preparing for Pan Am qualifiers in Colombia
As a champion amateur boxer by day and a nursing student by night, Mckenzie Wright has little time for anything else in life.
“My mindset is just one day at a time, just keep powering through,” the St. Davids fighter says.
She’s juggling full-time night shifts at a long-term care facility in Welland, needed to get her nursing diploma from Niagara College, and training for a chance to compete in the Pan American Games this fall.
Wright has been working straight nights five days a week at the facility since early May.
This might be normal for some people, but she is also preparing to represent Canada at the Pan Am Games qualifiers in Cali, Colombia, in less than a month — and training for such a competition is gruelling.
Coming in the top four at the Aug. 3 to 10 qualifiers would be her ticket to the Pan Am Games in Chile this October. A top two finish at the Pan Ams means a trip to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I understand these are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so I’ll do whatever it takes to take advantage of them,” said the national champion in the 50-kilogram weight class.
She trains six days a week at City Boxing Club in Niagara Falls with her coach, Jesse Sallows, a two-time Golden Glove champion.
Wright also works out on her own three to four days a week on top of her gym sessions.
Her intense schedule leaves her with five to six hours of sleep a night and one day off a week to rest.
“I don’t have room for anything else right now. I have absolutely no social life outside of the gym, which is tough,” she said.
“But it’s priorities as well. The people closest to me, they understand,” she added.
She knows this is what she needs to do if she wants to go all the way.
“I have a really good understanding of what this sport takes and to be at a certain level and be successful at that level,” she said.
“I just understand that you have to be all in and if you’re not all in, you’re not going to make it.”
She wakens after her night shift rest at around 2 p.m., has a cup of tea and right away prepares for her first training session.
Her conditioning days consist of different types of running exercises.
On Tuesdays, she sprints up and down a hill near her home; on Thursdays, she runs five kilometres as quickly as she can; on Saturdays, she goes to the track; and on a day in between, she’ll do a light five-kilometre run.
She said the track days are the worst.
“I do 800 metres twice, then 400 metres twice, 250 metres twice and 100 metres four times,” she said.
“That one induces a little bit of anxiety because it’s gonna be bad no matter what.”
These different conditioning sessions simulate how rounds of boxing work.
Running 800 metres at top speed takes about three minutes.
“So I’m going as hard as hard and as fast as possible for three minutes because that’s one round of boxing,” she said.
Her other conditioning workouts are more touch-and-go, with energy spikes and drops that simulate the brief bursts that occur throughout boxing rounds.
“You go hard, then you might circle the ring, you might pick your moments more, but then you’ve always got to be ready to go into that hard, powerful burst again,” she said.
Since the altitude in Colombia (about 3,200 feet) is higher than it is here, maintaining her conditioning regimen is especially important.
“I am going eight days in advance before the competition starts, so that’s even more motivation for me to be on top of my conditioning,” she said.
She’s hoping those eight days in Colombia beforehand will help her adjust to the altitude.
Here in Niagara, after her conditioning sessions, she’ll go home and have breakfast at 3:30 p.m., rest, have a cup of coffee, then head to the boxing club.
“We start at 5:30 p.m., and that training is just everything boxing-focused,” she said.
For two hours, Wright will skip, shadowbox, hit the heavy bags, sometimes spar and then do more conditioning.
“If it’s not a sparring day, then after my shadow boxing I’ll glove up and I’ll get time to do hand pads with my coach Jesse,” she said.
By the time she finishes around 7:30 p.m., she heads back home to St. Davids, eats dinner and gets ready for her 11 p.m. shift.
She tries to get a nap in, but isn’t always lucky.
“If I can’t, it’s because I’m thinking about boxing. So, in those times where I do try to nap, my mind is thinking about sparring or what I need to work on tomorrow,” she said.
The she heads to work, gets off at 7 a.m. – and does it all over again.
“What I’m doing right now, it’s not sustainable,” she said.
“I know, it’s crazy and I’m not sleeping enough and I’m tired all the time, but I only have a few weeks left, so I know I can do it,” she added.
The hardest thing for her has been how exhausted her body feels all the time, she said.
She loves boxing and has no trouble motivating herself to do it, but said she’s just “battling pure exhaustion.”
“Muhammad Ali says something like, ‘Suffer now and live your life as a champion,’ ” she said.
She finishes up her nursing co-op in a few weeks and leaves for Colombia on July 24 for 18 days for her shot at the Pan American Games.
“It’s once in a lifetime, so I’m all in,” she said.
- FUNDRAISER: Next Wednesday, July 19, from 3 to 5 p.m., friends and family have organized a fundraising meet-and-greet session for Wright at the Sandtrap Pub & Grill on Mary Street. For more information, contact her father, Dow Wright, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover the cost of her trip to Colombia.