Victoria Vergos 'excited' for new opportunity to box at Canada Winter Games

Shock, then excitement.

Those were the feelings of 16-year-old Victoria Vergos when finding out female boxing was being held at the 2023 Canada Winter Games for the first time.

The former gymnast turned boxer, and the reigning Ontario Provincial Golden Gloves winner, looks forward to the opportunity to further stamp herself on the national scene when the competition begins Tuesday in Summerside, P.E.I.

"It's such a privilege and I'm really excited that I'm able to go," the Hamilton native told The Canadian Press.

"Especially in that moment, I was kind of in shock just because I know that this is the first year that they're allowing females to go as well, so I was just really excited about that opportunity, like I am still now."

The sport's arrival to the Canada Games is 11 years behind that of the Olympics, which introduced it at the 2012 London Games.

"Female boxing is still relatively new and I think there's a lot more recognition that needs to go in it," Vergos said.

From an organizational standpoint for the Canada Games, however, it's more than a matter of just selecting sports.

"The Canadian sport program is set well out in advance of the games," said Canada Games Council president and CEO Kelly-Ann Paul. "A lot of that is due to venue selection and making sure that a host community is aware of the sport program that they're bidding on because it has big impacts on infrastructure.

"So our organization, the Canada Games Council, which is responsible to select sports, we have made adjustments to make sure that we can have a sport program that's more responsive to adjustments at the international level in terms of the Olympic Games, but also adjustments that happen in Canada on a social level and what is the right fit for the sport program."

Vergos is among seven boxers in the 60-kilogram weight class, with another five in the 52-kg division.

Vergos had competed in gymnastics — from six years old up to 13 — in the artistic and aerobic disciplines, having also been with Team Canada.

But a change of heart led to her transition to boxing.

"I really like this and I think that I could have a future, like a big future, going into the sport too," she said. "And with the foundation of gymnastics, with the conditioning and the discipline and mental aspects, … it's helped me a lot with boxing now.

"My turning point was kind of just 'OK, well, I'm not as interested in gymnastics anymore.' And it was a fantastic experience for me and it's helped me a lot. But boxing kind of just took over, and now that's my passion."

The move was one that was welcomed by her dad, George, who had been an amateur boxer himself and is one of her coaches, along with Spencer Wilcox, at Steeltown Boxing Club.

"He was very excited when he was able to kind of take me in his hands and teach me and help me out with boxing and he still does to this day," she said.

"I couldn't ask for a better team, they're just more than what I could ask for. … My coaches, all the Wilcox brothers, they're professional boxers themselves and my dad actually coaches them too, so we all help each other out and we all make sure that everyone has what each other needs when it comes to boxing."

After a delay in being able to compete due to the pandemic, Vergos began fighting last May and made her mark at the 2022 Ontario Golden Gloves competition. Now, she aims to do the same on the national scene with the goal of striking gold.

She understands the opportunity that stands in front of her going up against other provincial champions and Golden Glove winners from elsewhere.

"I think it's a really good opportunity to be able to compete with the best and to prove yourself and to show how good you really are," Vergos said.

The long-term goal, however, is for an even bigger stage.

"I would like to go down the Olympic pathway and maybe as time goes on — I think about being a professional sometimes," Vergos said.

"But right now, my mind is really set on the Olympic pathway and the amateur style and being a multi-time national champion and just competing as much as I can and getting as far as I can, taking home a lot of wins and getting very recognized."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press