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All-female boxing tournament returns to Sooke featuring athletes from around the world

Sooke Boxing hosts international Wonder Women event May 19-23
Sooke resident Kris Snelling takes a win in the ring. The West Coast Wonder Women all-female international boxing tournament at the Sooke Community Hall is set for May 19-23. (Contributed by Jeff Scott Shaw)

A mother and daughter with a penchant for punching are preparing to put their best jabs and hooks to the test against boxers from far and wide.

The West Coast Wonder Women+, one of five international amateur boxing cards in the world, is returning to Sooke.

Sooke resident Kris Snelling and her daughter look forward to the opportunity to compete in the event again.

“I definitely have a better idea of what to expect this year,” Snelling said. “I was pretty sick last year but got into the ring anyway, so I hope to do much better this year.”

Snelling, who earned her first win in Mexico last year, will join her 13-year-old daughter, Lake, on this year’s card, marking the second WCWW+ for both fighters.

When Kris joined the Sooke Boxing Club in 2008, it was strictly for fitness training, with no plans to enter the ring as a competitor. That changed due to a friendly family wager after Lake joined Sooke Boxing Club.

“I bet Lake that I would compete in WCWW if she got a knockout in her second fight, which was in Saskatchewan in 2019,” Kris explained. “Knockouts are rare in her age category, but Lake won by scoring a TKO after just three months of training.”

Lake said she hadn’t given any thought to boxing until she saw her mom working on her skills at Sooke Boxing Club when she was nine. She’s been in six fights so far, the majority of those exhibition matches.

“I’m really looking forward to WCWW,” said the 14-year-old, a Grade 8 student at Journey Middle School. “I know what to expect this time.”

Kris was eager to share fond memories of Fernando Rivas, a former trainer from Mexico who worked with the Sooke Boxing Club members, for his help with her development.

“He had a great passion for boxing and was a phenomenal help,” she said. “We were all devastated when he died in 2021. We’re fortunate head trainer Jonn Netzlaw has carried on the tradition and passion Fernando brought to the club.”

Kris also had high praise for the efforts of Sooke Boxing Club head coach Ellen Connor.

“I’m amazed at how hard she works setting up this tournament and with club members,” she added.

Elsie Mushata, Lilly Deroches, Ava Jeppesen, Tammy Johnson, and Tia Nunn comprise the remaining Sooke-based boxers participating in the tournament.

West Coast Wonder Women+’s mission is to redefine the historical and social perceptions of boxing and create a pathway for women to succeed in a male-dominated sport.

This will mark the fourth edition of the WCWW+, which provides an opportunity and platform for empowerment for women and athletes. More than 100 competitors from Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Finland in this year’s event range in age from seven to 54. The boxing card promotes diversity, inclusion, and resilience by bringing together athletes of all ages, nationalities and weight classes, including female+ and non-binary fighters.

“We’re extremely proud about this year’s boxing card, and the fact we can continue to grow participation year after year is very pleasing,” said Connor, who founded the event in 2018.

“After three years of being impacted by the pandemic, we’re again able to provide a platform for amateur female+athletes from around the globe to compete and pursue their passion. With over 100 athletes and their families attending WCWW+ in 2023, we’re excited to partner with local businesses and the broader community to make their time in Sooke a fulfilling experience.”

Organizers look forward to a future where they can host Canada’s first competitive transgender bout. Connor expressed her gratitude to the District of Sooke, the tourism board and the community for their support in increasing the event’s popularity and number of competitors.

RELATED: 12 Sooke women to compete as part of all-female boxing card

Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, chief executive officer for Canadian Women & Sports, said the WCWW+ is part of a dynamic group of organizations and leaders who are transforming the sport experience for women, girls and gender-diverse individuals across Canada.

“We are honoured to support initiatives like the WCWW+ and thank Ellen and the team’s dedication and commitment to equity,” Sandmeyer-Graves said.

Sara Haghihat-Joo, a professional boxer and former WCWW + competitor, said what stands out about the event is that the boxing card allows fighters of all levels of experience to compete.

“Ellen does a great job of matching everyone up regardless of a win or a loss and guaranteeing a certain amount of bouts for each competitor,” said Coquitlam resident Haghihat-Joo, who is looking forward to mentoring competitors. “When I first started boxing, I would have to go abroad to find opportunities. Now, WCWW + is providing bouts to female + fighters right here in Canada.”

West Coast Wonder Women+ takes place May 19, 20, and 21 at the Sooke Community Hall at 2037 Shields Rd. The event includes food and beverage vendor options and talks by past competitors and inspirational female athletes. Single-day tickets and weekend passes for adults and children are available at the door and online at

Kris Snelling

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