Though the spotlight is not shining on her as it was a couple of years ago, Mary Spencer’s main athletic goal remains the same.
Spencer, a 29-year-old Ojibwe boxer who lives in Windsor, Ont., would love to win a medal, preferably gold, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Spencer had been considered one of Canada’s best medal hopefuls heading into the 2012 London Olympics, where women’s boxing made its Olympic debut.
Spencer was one of 12 entrants in the women’s middleweight (75-kilogram) division. Her chances for a medal improved even before she stepped into the ring as she received an opening-round bye and an automatic spot into the quarter-final round.
But Spencer’s medal hopes were thwarted when she was defeated by a Chinese competitor in her first and only bout in London.
Spencer said she believes her outlook will vary if she is indeed fortunate enough to represent her country in Rio de Janeiro.
“The biggest difference the second time around is that I won’t be looking forward to the Olympics, I will be looking forward to performing in the Olympics,” she said. “The difference is huge.”
Besides being considered one of the country’s top medal hopefuls leading up to London, Spencer had received her share of attention. This included being a cover girl for CoverGirl, the massive cosmetics company.
Originally, Spencer, who has won three world championships in her career, had been hoping to retire after the London Olympics. But since she did not get the results she wanted, she decided to remain in the sport at least another four years for a shot at Olympic redemption.
While she’s still in the sport, the spotlight on her has dwindled considerably, which is to be expected though since there is not much Olympic hype these days.
While capturing an Olympic medal remains her main goal, Spencer said that is not what occupies all of her thoughts.
“Right now I’m not focusing on that specifically,” she said.
Her top priority right now is this year’s Canadian tournament, which begins on Oct. 27 and runs until Nov. 1 in Mississauga, Ont.
Spencer is a nine-time Canadian champion. But she had to settle for the silver medal at the 2013 nationals in Regina, after losing to Quebec’s Ariane Fortin in the final.
Spencer was not sure how many others besides Fortin would enter her category at this year’s Canadian tournament.
“Some years in the past it was just the two of us in the 75-kilogram division but this year there is a rumour that the 81-kilogram champ is moving down (to our division) so we’ll see,” she said.
Since her Olympic heartbreak in London, Spencer has fought 12 times. She has a record of 7-5 in those contests.
But she believes she has become a better fighter, despite her various losses.
“I’ve got 12 years of experience behind me,” she said. “The first 10 years of my experience I was winning constantly. And in the past two years I’ve had some big wins and some devastating losses. I think that has matured me as a fighter.”
Spencer is also continuing her education now by taking an online university course. Back in 2009, when she was in her second year of Psychology classes at the University of Windsor, she had put her education on hold in order to train full-time after she discovered women’s boxing would be included at the 2012 Olympics.
Spencer is not sure when the next time she’ll step into the ring after the upcoming nationals.
“I have no clue,” she said. “We don’t find that out until early next year.”
As for her biggest goal for 2015? She’s hoping to compete at the Pan American Games next summer, which will be staged in Toronto.
“It would be great as I’ve never been able to have a major competition before close to home,” Spencer said.
A while back Spencer thought she might have the opportunity to take part in the women’s world championships in her home country. Edmonton had originally been awarded the rights to host the competition.
But when Boxing Canada officials could not find suitable dates and a venue, the tournament was moved to South Korea.
As it turns out, Spencer will not compete at the South Korean event in November.
Spencer, who won the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, believes taking part in next year’s Games in her home province would be a career highlight.
“The Pan Am Games are huge,” she said. “Windsor is three-and-a-half hours away from Toronto but it would be easy for my family and friends to get there. And just having Canadians in the crowd cheering you on would be great.”