Fri, September 20, 2013

Mary Spencer bounced in boxing quarter-finals

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canada's Mary Spencer slips down to the canvas in a match with China's Li Jinzi (not shown) during the quarter-final Women's Middle (75kg) boxing match against at the London Olympic Games August 6, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

LONDON - There were as many theories being thrown around after Mary Spencer’s loss on Monday afternoon as there were punches thrown in the ring — including a somewhat cryptic suggestion by the head coach of the Canadian team that Spencer was out-coached in her fight.

Spencer, a three-time world champion and one of the great gold medal hopes of the Canadian team at these Games, lost to Chinese fighter Li Jinzi in her first bout, 17-14 — her third loss in a row at a major competition.

Spencer looked listless and frustrated against Li, whose awkward, clinching style prevented the Windsor middleweight (75kg) from scoring points on a consistent basis, though she was awarded two points late in the fight when Li was penalized for holding. Spencer also looked fatigued at times. Afterwards, Spencer, her coaches, and even her mother Ruth, were searching for answers for such a flat performance. One theory, put forward by the head coach of the Canadian boxing team here, Sylvain Gagnon, was that Spencer was out-coached by the Chinese corner.

“I could say also we got over-coached by the other side,” said Gagnon, who worked the Canadian corner with Spencer’s personal coach Charlie Stewart.

There was a bit of a strange dynamic in Spencer’s corner. Boxing Canada, with funding from Own the Podium, brought in Stewart for the Games. But in the days leading up to her bout with Li, it was Gagnon, the team head coach, who worked inside the ring with Spencer and was reportedly supposed to be the chief second in her corner. But in Monday’s fight, Stewart was the one issuing most of the instructions between rounds. When asked afterwards if he thought Spencer was getting bad advice in the fight, Gagnon paused and said: “Not really. But on the other side, the strategy was really good.”

To her credit, Spencer blamed only herself for the loss, adding that she should have been able to solve Li’s awkward style.

“It’s not the boxing you practice for. You practice for someone’s who’s going to jab and that kind of stuff, but at the same time this is amateur boxing, this is tournament boxing, and you have to prepare for anybody and some people are going to fight like that,” said Spencer, who seemed remarkably composed after her loss. “So that was my fault for not being prepared for that situation.”

Boxing Canada high performance director Daniel Trepanier said the loss came down to Spencer simply not doing what she should have done to win, and not adjusting to Li’s style.

“She forgot to bring her jab to the fight and that was probably the major key for the result,” said Trepanier. “Mary fought the fight of the Chinese. She didn’t fight her fight.”

Spencer defended having her personal coach in London.

“He did his job, I didn’t pull off my end,” she said. “He was absolutely fantastic. He always has been. He goes far and beyond what is expected from any coach, especially a coach who’s not getting paid a single penny. He goes further than he needs to, to make sure that I’m able to do what I need to do in there. Props to Charlie because I couldn’t have gotten here without him.”

Stewart suggested that Spencer was unusually nervous and perhaps all the hype in the months leading up to the Games got to her, a theory her mom supported.

“She doesn’t usually tell me she’s nervous or anything like that, but she did tell me this time,” said Stewart. “She doesn’t usually say those things before fights.”

Ruth Spencer said her daughter’s loss at the world championships in May to Sweden’s Anna Laurell, who lost to American Claressa Shields here on Monday, and having to wait to see if she’d receive a wild card entry from the IOC into the London Games took a toll.

“Everybody’s been bombarding her,” said Ruth. “The time I spent with her, constantly her phone was ringing and people were saying things and wanting to meet her, and whatever. I think there was a lot of pressure. And then of course she lost to (Shields at the Continental championships in April) and that’s one devastation on top of another one.”

Mary Spencer refused to use pressure as an excuse.

“I came here, I wanted to win gold. Having a bunch of other people (say she can win), that’s not pressure if I already told myself that’s what I expect,” said Spencer, who will continue boxing.

“I love this. I love boxing and I still want a gold medal,” added Spencer. “So yeah, I’m going to stick to it.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter@beezersun