Mikaela Mayer: “It could start with someone like me saying, I am going more rounds, pay me more money.”
The American Mikaela Mayer hopefully, won’t mind me saying that she has a certain reputation on Twitter, and the first time I interviewed Mayer, there was a tiny sense of apprehension I have to admit. But I have to say, probably to the disappointment of some, maybe even Mayer herself, the reputation is unfounded. What you see on Twitter isn’t always what you get.
There is a mischievous side to her for sure, a clear liking for playing the villain. But it is all part of the act, part of the big sell. To annoy is to earn. Mayer understands that her sport of choice is a business, playing nice isn’t always good for the finances. To be seen you have to be heard. The confident unbeaten world champion is now on the verge of reaping those rewards. The WBO super-featherweight title is already around her waist, very soon, she could very well have the full set. With the first defence of her title out of the way, thoughts turn now to unification.
The tough Erica Farias was outpointed in Las Vegas on a recent Top Rank card headlined by Naoya Inoue. Mayer has just returned from Mexico, a break to recharge the batteries, have some fun, but boxing is never that far from her thoughts:
“I’ve just enjoyed a nice birthday trip in Mexico and now I am back home and back in the gym. You need it physically but you also need it mentally after such a long training camp, cutting weight and everything that goes into preparing for a fight. It’s just draining, I definitely like to take a week or two off and just enjoy life, seeing friends and family. But then I immediately get hungry to get back in the gym again.”
Mayer overcame a determined opponent in Farias, who certainly made the reigning WBO champion work for her victory. After a frustrating experience on the night Mayer claimed the world title, the challenger came to fight and not to spoil, and allowed Mayer to better showcase her skills. Mayer told FightPost she was pleased with her night’s work:
“I thought the fight went great, I thought it was a real action-packed fight. I think a lot of people underestimated her, we didn’t, but a lot of people thought it would be an easy night for me. We knew she would come out swinging, which is what you have to do when you fight me. You have to come out and press me. One thing I learned before the fight was that even though she was only 5’4 she had a four-inch reach advantage over me. She took some punches, I took some punches, but she definitely took more. I thought it was a high-paced fight, high punch count and a very exciting fight. I always come on strong at the end of a fight and I feel that’s what I did.”
I scored the fight 7-3 in rounds to Mayer, with the only slight concern of trouble for her was in round six when I thought the champion was showing small signs of fatigue. But Mayer closed out the fight impressively, sweeping the final three rounds to remove any doubt that her title was in any danger:
“I took round six off, I slowed my pace down, and then I closed down the fight well. I felt I kept my pace up throughout the fight and kept a high punch count and I was landing clean shots. My hands were aching because I was hitting her to the head so hard. It’s never happened before, I knew I was putting my combinations together. Her face must have been really torn up after the fight because my hands were throbbing with hitting her in the head so much. Coach Al’s response was you should have been working the body more. But I always finish a fight strong and I think I do better in the closing rounds. That’s one of my arguments for longer rounds.”
The argument for three minute rounds will not fade away anytime soon. But in normal working life, if you do more you should get paid more, Mayer strongly believes this should be the case if women’s boxing moves in alignment with the men’s side of the sport:
“In my interview with Andre Ward, I said why are we continuing to push for longer rounds unless we get paid more. But now because I am in the position I am in, let me see if I ask for more can I get more. So if we push for three-minute rounds that will obviously be in the discussion. So my manager will say look she is going the same as the men now, let’s close that pay gap a little more. I have a big promoter behind me, I am on ESPN let’s see if I can make that change. It could start with someone like me saying, I am going more rounds, pay me more money.”
There has been some suggestion that world title fights could be extended to 12 x 2-minute contests, but Mayer prefers the rounds to be lengthened to allow the rounds to play out more naturally and remove the sprint element away from her sport:
“I’m not so bothered about the number of rounds it’s the time you have in a round. Sometimes when you are catching onto an opponent and getting some momentum going and then the bell goes. An extra minute in a round could change a whole fight instead of breaking up the action. I think that extra minute is more important.”
The hope before Farias was announced as last the opponent was that Mayer would be facing Maïva Hamadouche in a unification fight at super-featherweight. But with Hamadouche, the long-reigning IBF champion, deciding to aim for Olympic glory instead, Mayer had to look elsewhere, but thankfully, Mayer will finally get her opportunity to add another world title to her collection. The fight for the WBO and IBF titles is now signed and sealed and will take place later this year:
“It could be October or November, we don’t have a date set yet. It will be in America on a Top Rank card. It was always going to be over here, they immediately agreed to give us the fight in America. The Ring Magazine belt will be up for grabs as well, that was exciting news. I read the decision on that they are not going to wait for Harper and Choi and they also didn’t that was a suitable fight for the Ring Magazine belt. My fight with Hamadouche is a way more exciting fight and they are going to put the belt up now instead of waiting.”
The World Boxing Super Series recently announced that they would feature the women’s super-featherweight division as part of their next tournament. It is almost certainly the division with the greatest depth, and the future tournament is very much of interest to Mayer:
“It’s great that they decided to choose a women’s division, and my division (130) is the most competitive in women’s boxing right now. We also have girls at 126 and 135 who could also come into our division and be a real threat, so it is the best decision by the WBSS to choose our division. I would love to be part of it, but I haven’t heard anything yet. I don’t know when the phone calls are going to start happening but they need to try and get the four champions in the tournament.”
After a frustrating time over the past year or so, Mayer is now making waves and the big fights she craves are coming and soon. The American was told to get a belt to get Terri Harper. Mayer now has a belt, but it will take two belts to get Harper. Before this year is out, Mayer will likely have the two belts she needs for her dream fight with the British world champion. A fight for all the belts next year, if Harper gets past her own unification fight later this year, would be another important step forward for women’s boxing.
Women’s boxing has grown substantially in recent times, and with more and more fighters joining the professional ranks it should continue to grow for many years to come. Mayer recently turned 31 and is heading into her prime years, she will undoubtedly play a big part in the continued growth of her sport. Fights with Hamadouche and Harper are the immediate aims, but Katie Taylor and others are on her radar. Mayer might never win everyone over, but she looks like a fighter who has no intentions of leaving the scene anytime soon.