Mary Spencer has had a good run of luck lately. Spencer, a female boxer who's one of Canada's most-promoted Olympic athletes and one of the brightest Canadian medal hopes in London, looked like she might not even make it to London following an upset loss at the women's world championships in May. She was given a somewhat controversial wild-card spot in June, though, and that spot has turned out very well for her before she's even thrown a punch. Friday's draw gave Spencer a first-round bye, and it puts her one win away from a guaranteed fight for a medal. Now, the question is if Spencer can turn her athletic potential and her favourable draw into Olympic hardware.
From the outside, the odds look good for Spencer. She's one of the world's most decorated female boxers, with gold medals to her name from the 2005, 2008 and 2010 World Championships and the 2011 Pan Am Games. Moving up to the 75-kilogram weight class (one of only three classes offered in women's boxing at these Olympics, compared to the 10 for men) probably isn't ideal for her, as her first two world championship golds came in the 66-kilogram class, but Spencer has had success at the 75-kg level too, claiming both world championship and Pan Am gold there. She has a remarkable overall amateur record of 115 wins and nine losses, and has shown a great ability both to hand out punishment and withstand opponents' punches. Moreover, although this is her first Olympics (and the first time women's boxing has been in the Olympics), her long history of international competition may help her overcome the inexperience bug. She's also only 27, so it's hardly like she's on the downslope of her career.
The draw's favourable nature for Spencer goes beyond merely the first-round bye, too. Her first match will be a quarterfinal bout against the victor in the tilt between Roseli Feitosa of Brazil and Jin Zi Li of China, and she's beaten both fighters previously. Li won 75-kilogram gold at the 2008 world championships while Spencer was still competing in the 66-kilogram class, but Spencer took her down handily in the final at the 2010 worlds, winning 14-2. If she's able to beat either Feitosa or Li, Spencer will be into the semifinals; a victory there would guarantee her at least a silver medal and give her a shot at gold, while even a loss would still give her another chance to fight for bronze. Of course, Spencer hasn't had the greatest results recently, and her early 18-11 loss to Sweden's Anna Laurell at this year's world championships (Laurell went on to lose in the semifinals) has some questioning if she still has what it takes to pull off the medal performance many expected at the start of the year. Still, she's a remarkably talented Canadian athlete with a past history of success and a surprisingly easy draw. That augers very auspiciously for Canada.