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Friday, April 19, 2024
One point all the difference in NOTL boxer’s Olympic qualifier
St. Davids boxer, Mckenzie Wright.

St. Davids fighter Mckenzie Wright has one more shot at making Paris Games


A single point and a lone judge who saw her bout differently was all it took to derail boxer Mckenzie Wright’s latest quest to compete in the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

The St. Davids fighter narrowly lost a qualifying bout to eventual champion Aira Villegas of the Philippines in the 50-kilogram weight class at a tournament in Italy last Friday.

Wright will now compete in one final tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, in May where she’ll battle for a chance to live out her Olympic dream.

While she’s disappointed with the latest result, Wright is pleased with her performance in Busto Arsizio, near Milan.

“The experience of competing at such a high level with everything on the line is the most exciting thing I will ever do so I am still always appreciating every moment because I know one day I will miss it,” she told The Lake Report shortly after returning to Canada on Tuesday evening.

Her match with Villegas “was definitely the highest-calibre fight I’ve been in and it was a war. Unfortunately, it was a clash of styles that caused us to keep tangling where neither one of us was willing to take a step back.”

People watching the fight at home via livestream can’t always see the round-by-round scores, Wright said.

With five judges scoring the match, she took the first and final rounds 3-2 but Villegas won the middle round 4-1.

“It’s hard to explain because the scoring is complicated, but basically it was one judge who gave her both the first and second I needed to flip to give me the third,” she said.

So, although three of the judges gave the Canadian the last round, “that one judge was not one of them.”

“When you count up the points, it’s a one-point difference and (Villegas) takes the fight. That’s a tough one to accept, knowing that I won two of three rounds.”

Despite the setback, the weeks spent in Italy preparing for the tournament and her performance against Villegas were a confidence boost for Wright.

“Once again I am proving I belong at the highest level of boxing in the world. My opponent went on to win the whole bracket and not only qualified, but did it with ease.”

“Unfortunately, that’s just luck of the draw. I was a huge underdog in the fight, only finding out later she is a world bronze medallist,” Wright said.

“It’s reassuring to know that it was a razor-close finish with the top level, so I can’t give up. There are four more spots left that someone has to win, so why not me?”

Versus Villegas, she stuck to her game plan and made adjustments to come back and win the third round.

“I implemented a lot of things we had been working on during our three-week camp out there where I was sparring other previous Olympians, world medallists, and other girls who have already qualified their spot for Paris. So, I do know I’m right there with them.”

In that third round, Wright unleashed a flurry of combinations and uppercuts in the final three minutes, rocking her opponent, while Villegas countered with numerous punches that missed or landed lightly.

In the livestreamed match, described by the colour commentators as “terrifically competitive” with the decision on “a knife’s edge,” Wright put in a strong and gutsy performance.

She appeared to have won the bout, but couldn’t change that lone judge’s opinion.

“I’m also happy with the adversity I was able to overcome and still perform really well,” Wright said.

“Our shuttle to the venue was a 30-minute bus ride and our bus driver found it to be more important to have a leisurely dinner than to leave on time.”

“We left half an hour late and on arrival I found out the fight before mine had been scrapped. I started getting my hands gauzed by my coach as soon as I arrived,” she said. That usually takes 20 minutes.

She managed to do her full warm-up and get focused in 10 minutes before walking out to the ring.

“There is always adversity that will come up and performing under non-ideal circumstances at the highest level, you better keep it together. And I’m happy I was able to do just that,” Wright said.

Now that she’s back home, “I will probably be back in the gym for light training by the end of the week. I’m disappointed but I’m always motivated to keep pushing because I’m so close.”

“I have about six weeks to keep practising the little adjustments I want to make and then I get to do it all again.”

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