Mikaela Mayer: The 130-pound Takeover
Exclusive interview by Ian Aldous: After an extensive amateur career consisting of countless national titles and a dubious loss at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Mikaela Mayer (14-0) left that code of combat behind and dawned on a journey to become a world champion in the pro ranks.
Her manager George Ruiz approached promotional juggernaut Top Rank, and they combined forces in an attempt to boost the profile of women’s boxing in the U.S., to an equivalent level that it sustains in Europe. Since debuting in 2017, Mayer’s presence has been a welcome addition to Top Rank cards.
Her pro education has been swift and smooth considering the length of her amateur career. In all but her first tandem of bouts, the thirty year old has opposed fighters with winning records.
“You have trolls on social media who think that I haven’t fought anybody,” Mayer told me. “But I honestly think that Top Rank has moved me extremely well. They know what they’re doing.”
Mayer moved to 13-0 by mid-2020, against a varying range of opponents with minimal fuss. However, with Matchroom signing Hyun Mi-Choi, Maiva Hamadouche, Ewa Brodnicka and already promoting Terri Harper – all five super-featherweight world titles appeared to be in a closed shop that Mayer couldn’t breach.
Only a few hours after Brodnicka was officially announced as a Matchroom fighter, she was ordered by the WBO to defend her title in a mandatory defence, against none other than Mayer.
“I can remember that day,” she reflected. “It was so sweet (laughs); nothing against Eddie and Matchroom. I think Eddie had just posted about signing Brodnicka, and for a second, I was like, ‘oh shit’! Less than an hour later, the WBO announces that I’ve become mandatory (laughs). I think my post was, ‘mic drop’.”
Fans in Europe belittled her achievements and claimed she’d done nothing to warrant the shot, but the silent majority were aware of what the American was truly capable of. In Top Rank’s Las Vegas ‘Bubble’, Mayer outpointed the undefeated champion (100-88, 100-88 & 99-89) with ease. The Pole entered having been unable to make the weight and surrendered her title on the scales. Her messy style and monotonous holding created a fight that was unfortunately unpleasing to the eye. Coach Al, as Mayer affectionately calls her trainer Al Mitchell, had made her aware of the nature of Brodnicka’s style, but Mayer wasn’t fully aware until the first bell sounded.
“It is a really annoying style. I wanted to let my hands go and fight,” she said with annoyance. “She wasn’t very offensive, she was just very defensive and it did get frustrating. I still felt like I won every round and did what I had to do. Luckily we trained for that style. Once I got in the ring with her I see how she’s 19-0. It’s not my style, I don’t like it, but it works.”
It was very difficult to look good against someone who fights that way; nonetheless, the WBO 130-pound world championship had been secured as not only her maiden world title, but a priceless bargaining chip to lure the other titleholders to fight her. Maiva Hamadouche and her IBF title had been targeted. Negotiations started, but the fight failed to materialise.
“Hamadouche made a priority to qualify and fight for France in the Olympics, and it was clear from the start that was her priority,” Mayer’s manager, George Ruiz explained. “She wanted the fight scheduled around the qualifiers.”
The fight being a secondary objective for Hamadouche didn’t make business sense for Top Rank and their broadcaster, ESPN due, in part, to the possibility of Hamadouche gaining an injury at short-notice in the Olympic qualifiers.
“We’ll save that one for later,” Ruiz added.
It’s another of the super-featherweights who sits atop the division that Mayer has built a fascinating rivalry with. Britain’s unified IBO & WBC world champion, Terri Harper looks to be a natural rival for the undefeated WBO champion.
“I think Terri’s a good fighter. She’s young and has a lot of time to develop and grow into a great fighter,” Mayer mused. “As of now, I just don’t think that she’s on my level.”
“Ultimately Terri Harper’s not yet on my level. She doesn’t have the experience I have under my belt and I know that when we face, I’m going to expose that side of her.”
Citing Tasha Jonas as an example of an experienced Olympian causing Terri huge problems in their drawn world title classic last year, and Terri’s lack of amateur bouts, Mayer firmly believes she’d come out on top should they eventually meet.
“When we do face, my experience is going to show.”
“I know a lot of people over there (UK) don’t like me right now. I keep saying this – but I’m a very sweet person (laughs). I’m just building these fights. I don’t hate Terri Harper; I hate her name right now (because) she has something I want. I want these big fights to happen and to leave a legacy.”
Now in Michigan for a training camp preparing for a June 19th world title defence against Erica Farias – who has only lost to Jessica McCaskill, Cecilia Braekhus and Delfine Persoon – the California-born champion cut a frustrated figure listing the fights that her team valiantly attempted to make.
“We tried with a handful of top girls at 130. We looked into Tiara Brown, we tried with Alycia Baumgardner (and) obviously Maiva Hamadouche was our number one choice, that didn’t work out.”
Having competed just north of the super-featherweight limit for her early contests, Mayer not only hopes to clean up at 130-pounds, but she will also begin a crusade at lightweight in the not-too-distant future.
“Oh yeah, I’m excited to go up,” Mayer said. “I know there’s a handful of girls outside of 130 that I would love to test myself against. I’m 5’9″, I don’t walk around at 130 (laughs), I’m walking around at 148, something like that. I can definitely go up because of my height and reach.”
“That’s one of the reasons I’m hoping it doesn’t take too long to unify at 130. If we can’t get these deals together I’m not going to sit around and wait. I’m going to hop up and down and take the fights that make sense.”
The queen who reigns as champion in that division is whom the former Olympian has fixed her targets upon. Katie Taylor has ruled with an iron fist and vanquished all who have dared to challenge her so far. Enter Mikaela Mayer:
“I’ve always imagined fighting Katie Taylor in my career. I imagine being the one to beat her. I don’t want to fight her outside her prime or wait until she retires. I want that fight. If that comes around now that I’m a world champion and making a name for myself, that’s definitely something my team would look into taking if the terms are right.”
Manager George Ruiz revealed their plans for world domination. “Ideally we’d like to unify at 130 and maybe even get undisputed. If for whatever reason Matchroom doesn’t want to put up their girls then an opportune fight against Katie Taylor might make sense. We’re looking at all angles.”
Armed with hundreds of thousands of social media followers and a world title, this is just the start of Mikaela Mayer’s hostile takeover.
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