She’s a Knockout: Ojibwe Boxer Mary Spencer Is a Leader With Influence


The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) has named 20 women in its Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity list for 2011, and Mary Spencer, Ojibwe, is one of the honorees.

Spencer, of the Cape Croker Ojibwe First Nation in Ontario, is Canada’s powerhouse pugilist. She’s an eight-time national champion, five-time Pan-American Games champion, and three-time world champion—that’s a lot of metal in her trophy collection, with some heavier elements expected to be added soon. Ringside pundits and experts see her medaling, likely taking gold, at the London Olympic Games this summer, when women’s boxing makes it debut.

Although a basketball star in high school who dreamt of one day turning pro, Spencer, 28, began boxing in 2002 at the age of 17. After a few months of testing the ropes she found herself at the Windsor Amateur Boxing Club, in Windsor, Ontario, training under three-time Olympic coach, Charlie Stewart. Her career record stands at an incredible 118-8. And the accolades she’s winning outside the ring are equally impressive.

This includes her recent CAAWS recognition. The CAAWS list, which has been published for 11 years, includes athletes, officials, coaches, politicians, professors, administrators and volunteers. Spencer moved up a class this year from CAAWS’s 2010 Ones to Watch list.

“CAAWS publishes its Most Influential Women list to celebrate and honor Canadian women who are influencing change in their area of expertise of sport and physical activity,” CAAWS Executive Director Karin Lofstrom told The Globe and Mail. “These leaders share a passion for sport and physical activity – and use it to improve the lives of others. These women are game changers who motivate others to become leaders.”

Spencer is without a doubt a leader. Gen7, an organization that aims to encourage aboriginal youth to live, and encourage others to live, an active and healthy lifestyle through sport and physical activity, has noticed. The nonprofit has selected Spencer to be a Gen7 Messenger, a role that has her helping to develop the next generation of aboriginal leaders in communities across Canada.

The fighter sums up her philosophy of success in and out of the ring by noting that "Failure is determined by the things we allow to happen. Success is determined by the things we make happen.” Further, she’s grateful for the people in her life that helped her succeed in achieving her goals. They went out of their way to help her and from this she has learned that when you help someone, not only are you helping them, you are also helping yourself become a better person.

“I feel like there is a very good reason why I have the experiences that I do and that reason is so that I can share them with others,”she observed. Spoken like a true champion.

For more on Spencer as she trains for the London Games, visit her official website,

Watch Global 16:9's two-part feature on Spencer below:

Part I:

Part II: