St. Davids boxer Mckenzie Wright’s bid to fight for Canada in the Paris Summer Olympics suffered a setback Thursday afternoon when she lost a unanimous decision to American Jennifer Lozano in the semifinals of the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
Wright, 33, fighting from the red corner versus the Texan, who was in blue, was narrowly behind on points through the first two rounds.
The Canadian was unable to make up the deficit in the final three minutes despite a valiant effort.
Competing in the 50-kilogram weight class, the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident was hoping to qualify for the Paris Games.
All semifinal winners in Santiago automatically earn a spot in the Summer Games.
Wright and the Colombian who lost in the other semifinal were presented with bronze medals during Friday afternoon’s medal ceremony.
It’s unclear what Wright’s plans are or if there are further tournaments that might allow her to realize her dream of fighting in the Olympics.
Developing story. Check back for updates.
Nine more minutes, three more rounds of boxing and Mckenzie Wright could be on her way to fight for Canada at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake boxer won a unanimous 5-0 decision on Tuesday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
It was her second straight win and sets up a semifinal bout on Thursday afternoon against American fighter Jennifer Lozano of Laredo, Texas.
The Santiago Games are a direct qualifier for the Summer Olympics and in boxing the two finalists automatically punch their ticket to compete in Paris.
On Tuesday, Wright moved a giant step closer to achieving that dream when she defeated Valeria Cardenas Abarca of Costa Rica in her second fight in the 50-kilogram weight class.
Fighting from the blue corner against the red-clad Abarca at Santiago’s Olympic Training Centre, the Canadian champ won the first two rounds on all five judges’ scorecards.
She then had to endure an aggressive onslaught as the Costa Rican tried to make up ground in the final three minutes.
Despite an unexpected slip 45 seconds into the third round that sent Wright tumbling to the canvas when she briefly lost her balance, she bounced back up and held on for a decisive 5-0 win.
Seven hours later, near midnight on Tuesday, she was still “unwinding” from an adrenalin-filled day.
“I feel amazing right now,” the St. Davids resident said.
“I’m taking tonight to enjoy the win but (Wednesday) I have to regroup, come back down and remain focused on the next bout.”
There were two main differences for her match against the Costa Rican, Wright said.
“The first one being that she is a southpaw (left-handed). I had to make some adjustments going in, mainly positioning and distancing.”
The other main difference is Abarca is a “cleaner boxer,” so there was much less holding and wrestling compared to her initial fight with Aylin Dayana Jamez of Guatemala on Saturday afternoon.
As for the stumble, “it was no problem for me,” said Wright, 33.
“Surprisingly I have fallen down in so many of my fights before that it didn’t faze me at all and I didn’t give it a second thought.”
“The ref saw it right, that it was just a slip and I was ready to go right away.”
Wright, who graduated from the nursing program at Niagara College this past summer, has been getting tons of support from friends and followers on social media.
“My phone has been blowing up this week,” she said.
“I’m hearing from everyone who is following along. Everyone from Niagara, the boxing community, high school, nursing school, old jobs, my extended family” and many of the travellers she met when she lived in Africa a few years back.
“It’s a very cool feeling to know how many people are behind me on this,” she said.
As well, her parents, Dow and Judy Wright, are in Santiago to cheer her on at the Games.
“We are always proud of Mckenzie’s efforts – win or lose,” her dad said from Chile.
“Our nerves, mine especially, really start building on fight day and it just feels like an eternity until fight time,” he said.
Their hearts race throughout her fights, with brief relief if they see she is ahead on the scorecard after each round, he added.
“The final bell brings immense relief. Usually we know one way or the other. When her hand is raised, there is a flood of exhilaration and a few tears,” he said.
Dad noted she has not competed at this level before, “so we are in uncharted territory. With an Olympic berth on the line, I expect to be a wreck” for the semifinal.
“But the best part is Mckenzie is enjoying the moment and brimming with confidence.”