From its earliest days, the sport of boxing has been referred to by many as the Sweet Science and if you’re looking for the sweetest of the sweet, you don’t have to look any further than Kandi – as in Kandi Wyatt who trains out of the Rimbey Boxing Club who recently won her fifth consecutive national championships at a tournament held at the West Edmonton Mall.
Wyatt, who received an automatic bye into the finals, easily defeated Jessica McRae of the Windsor (Ontario) Amateur Boxing Club in the 69-kilogram weight category to claim the title.
“This year was a very tough bout,” Wyatt said when asked to compare her latest championship to the previous four. “She wanted to win just as much as I did, and we had an exciting bout. To win the gold medal in my home province was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. This year was definitely my most satisfying year because it was here in Alberta, and I had a lot of support from family and friends the night of my bout.”
Indeed. With a substantial and enthusiastic crowd on hand, Wyatt went to work early on McRae and led the bout after the first round 3-1 on the judge’s scorecards. The resident of Rocky Mountain House who has trained in Rimbey for the past several years, kept the pressure on in the second round and with a few lightening-quick combinations that included a straight right followed by a hook and an upper cut, Wyatt upped her lead to 9-5, however McRae wasn’t about to throw in the towel and came out strong in the final round and gave the unblemished 27-0 record of Wyatt a bit of a scare but in the end, the judges rules the local fighter had established herself as the champion and gave her an 11-9 decision.
Given the fact that McRae crushed Fanny Gingras of Quebec by a score of 17-0 in the semi-finals, she certainly was no pushover for Wyatt who said she would’ve liked to have a bit of a tune-up herself as opposed to the bye into the finals.
“I would have preferred to have another bout instead of the bye. It was too much waiting for me,” she said with a chuckle. “I was excited to box and it was a very long week, Saturday came very slowly.”
But win, lose or draw, championship boxers don’t get to the top by themselves and for that, Wyatt quickly pointed to her coach Mike Smith, his assistant coaches and the Rimbey Boxing Club as being the key factors in her many title victories.
“Mike has had a great impact on my success in the boxing ring. He is a great coach, and always seems to know what to say and when to say it. And he makes practice a fun place to be. We’ve created a very strong relationship and he is my best friend,” she said. “I love training at the Rimbey Boxing Club. I have met so many people while I have been training there and made many new friends. We have a great time at practice and at tournaments.”
It was a bit of a slow start for the 17 year-old Wyatt’s career who, as an eight year-old, followed in the steps of her three older sisters by enrolling in gymnastics classes back in Rocky Mountain House, but quickly lost interest when she gravitated over to the local boxing club located in the same building and coached by none other than Mike Smith.
Following plenty of thought, a few chats with her parents and establishing two very important rules right off the bat – those including she would be treated like any of his other fighters and there was to be absolutely no crying, Smith decided Wyatt’s persistence was enough, and he agreed to take her under his wing.
“I’d get distracted, and I’d go over and watch Mike train all the other boxers,” Wyatt said of her early exposure to the squared-circle.
And while she took to the exercises and practice like a fish takes to water, Smith put her in the ring for a little sparring action but it didn’t take long before rule number two was broken.
“She got punched in the face once too often, and she started to cry. I took her out,” Smith said.
Nevertheless, she kept with the program and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.
Normally the domain of young males looking to beat up other young males, the boxing ring quickly became a second home for Wyatt who during her rise to the top, has gone toe-to-toe with a number of skilled fighters from the other gender including 18 year-old bronze glove competitor Cory Regnier who has become one of Wyatt’s regular sparring partners.
“I love boxing because I get an incredible adrenaline rush when I’m in the ring, whether it is sparring at practice or in a bout,” she said. “Boxing teaches you self-discipline, you meet a lot of new people, make new friends, you get into great physical condition, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Of course, there’s still a lot more that goes into creating championship-calibre boxers than good coaching and a good attitude, most important, the support from family, friends and possibly even a few strangers.
“My family has always supported me in boxing since I started when I was eight. My friends have also been very supportive and have come out to watch me box to show their support. I always have someone from my family, or friends at a bout cheering me on. The support I have coming from my friends and family is amazing,” she said. “The support I get from newspapers, radio and television stations and the towns of Rimbey and Rocky Mountain House helps to inform people of the sport. And I’m appreciative of everyone who shows their support the sport of boxing.”
As for her future goals, Wyatt has been invited to join Team Alberta for a card in Ireland in May on the assumption they can find her a decent opponent.
In the meantime, she continues to seek as many fights as possible, including the recent Rumble in Red Deer held on March 6 where she met Natasha Hanna – also an Edmonton based fighter where she turned in another solid effort in front of a crowd of 1,800 spectators who, in addition to seeing some great fights, also raised over $3,000 for breast cancer research.
Originally scheduled to meet Susan Haas, that fight had to be rearranged following an injury at the same competition in which Wyatt captured the national championships, Hanna was the next available opponent and despite having only eight bouts worth of experience, from all indications, her and Wyatt put on a great show for the crowd.
As for the natural progression that will soon see Wyatt faced with decisions such as turning professional, she said she is considering a career as a fighter, however she’s got a few other priorities that need to be taken care of first.
“I have thought about professional boxing as a career, but I like to take boxing one bout at a time,” she said. “The future is a long ways away, and right now I’m just focusing on finishing high school.”