Mikaela Mayer: World Titles & Beyond
Boxing has saved many souls, lives drifting away to nothing, or much worse. Mikaela Mayer is one such soul. The teenage rebel with no cause needed an outlet, boxing was that outlet. Almost certainly another soul the sport saved.
Mayer has come a long way since those wayward character-building days as a bassist in Lia-Fail, a hardcore metal band. Mayer was always looking for somewhere that fits, where she belonged. Boxing was that place.
A stellar amateur career including a bronze medal at the world amateur championships and being part of the American team at the 2016 Olympics, should have seen opportunities aplenty in the professional ranks. But women’s boxing was still finding its feet, the phone didn’t ring loud enough, a career in MMA was looming until Top Rank saw something worthy of an investment.
Mayer now unbeaten in 14 fights has more than proved herself, a world champion with even bigger things on her mind. A refreshing attitude in a sport of avoidance and protecting what you have. Mayer is making waves, some don’t like her methods, but anyone asking for less will need to go elsewhere. Mayer is an individual that won’t be forced into a world of familiarity to make others feel more comfortable. She wants equality in many different ways.
Confidence isn’t always liked or appreciated, it can be taken as arrogance, many want you to stay in that perceived box of behaviour. Be nice, play the game, being ambitious is usually acceptable, but only to a certain point. The critics may argue silence is golden. Mayer is ambitious, outspoken, when the mind is spoken the hate undoubtedly follows. Mayer plays her game and seems to enjoy her villain role on the other side of the Atlantic. The unbeaten champion wants to come to the UK, to experience the boos, she is unlikely to be disappointed should such a visit materialise. The plan is working.
Winning the WBO super-featherweight title isn’t the end goal. Mayer wants more, much more. She talks about unification, fighting Katie Taylor, and fighting her when she is at her peak. No cheap win on her record, she wants the win to mean something. To mean everything.
When talks break down, fights don’t happen, Mayer gets the blame for the fights breaking down. The warriors hit their keyboards with venom, but little substance.
Don’t be fooled by some, make no mistake Mayer wants the big fights. Terri Harper, a nicely simmering rivalry, the obvious target for next year. Mayer has built the fight up, the American understands the need to build rivalries to continue to build her sport. Harper vs Mayer is one such fight, one such rivalry. A natural fight between two polar opposites.
Maiva Hamadouche the IBF claimant has qualified for this year’s Olympics which resulted in plans for a unification fight with Mayer coming to nothing. But when the attention returns to the bread and butter, Hamadouche will need to defend her title. She is signed with Matchroom who plan full unification of the super-featherweight division, Mayer, before the year is out should receive the call she has been waiting for. At some point, sooner rather than later, Mayer will be needed.
But this weekend in Las Vegas, Mayer defends her belt against Erica Farias, an experienced confident opponent that needs to be efficiently dealt with before thoughts turn to the likes of Harper, Hamadouche and the dream fight with Katie Taylor.
Farias is the first defence of the title Mayer won late last year against Ewa Brodnicka. It was a frustrating anticlimactic experience. An opponent who came to frustrate, in a behind closed doors show and the sterile atmosphere that creates, in some ways, spoiled her big night. It felt hollow, it didn’t feel right.
But Saturday night promises to be everything her title-winning fight wasn’t. A packed Vegas crowd, the co-main event to boxing’s ‘Monster’ and even the UK viewers get to see her live thanks to the Sky Sports/Top Rank recent merger of convenience. Mayer finally has the platform and the setting she craves. A win over Farias should see the chase for what really matters intensify.
Mayer is likely to be a fighter that the likes of Hamadouche and Harper will be unable to ignore or avoid for much longer. If the plan is indeed full unification, Mayer at some point will have to be accommodated. But for Mayer, the ambitions will still not end there. A fighter with big aspirations and expectations in multiple weight divisions, Mayer has found where she belongs and wants to remain there for the foreseeable future.
The ride will be longer and less quiet than some would desire, but Mayer is just being herself, creating and seeking out the opportunities that are out there. That last-minute call that Top Rank made could turn out to be a highly lucrative one for all parties. But money aside, Mayer is a much more important figure in the still fragile world of women’s boxing. To keep the interest alive the sport needs the likes of Mayer to keep being themselves. Eventually even those that hate, including her rivals, may have to accept and acknowledge that.
Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images