Mikaela Mayer: “I would definitely say this is the fight of the division.“
Mikaela Mayer is a hard woman to get hold of, her time is limited and valuable. Even on a Sunday, we had to delay our Zoom interview. Mayer is apologetic, an unplanned training session from her trusted coach Al Mitchell kept me waiting just a little bit longer than expected. Sunday is no day of rest for a world champion who is aiming for more belts to add to her collection.
Fight camp has no let-up for a fighter with big ambitions, winning one world title was never going to satisfy the unbeaten and often outspoken reigning WBO super-featherweight champion of the world. There is no day off for Mayer as training peaks for what lays ahead:
“Coach Al always wants to do a little extra. He said to do 30 minutes in the pool and then we will run this evening. I said I’m pretty sure it’s Sunday but ok. We usually do some kind of active recovery on a Sunday, but he wanted me to get some full work in so we are doing both today.”
This Friday in Las Vegas Mayer will face the IBF champion Maiva Hamadouche in a big unification fight that will move the division one step closer to having an undisputed champion. Despite the importance of the fight, Mayer told FightPost there have been only subtle changes to her training regime:
“We have our routine, I have been with Coach Al for so long now, we know what works. There will be little changes in the gym and the sparring, just things we do for different opponents.”
Hamadouche (22-1) hasn’t lost a fight since Delfine Persoon beat her in 2015 and has held her IBF title since 2017. The credentials are impressive, her style known to all. Mayer is confident but meticulous in her preparations although she isn’t expecting any great surprises come fight night:
“We are expecting what everyone else is expecting from Hamadouche, her style is no secret. She only does one thing, she does it really well, Hamadouche is really good at what she does. So coming up with a game plan is pretty straightforward. We don’t expect her to switch up and do something we are not used to. We have watched her fights and she has a very aggressive come-forward style. It will be a conditioning fight for sure she is very well conditioned, she puts that pressure on well and we have been training for that.”
Besides Mayer and Hamadouche, there are two rival claimants to the undisputed crown, but despite tough competition, Mayer firmly believes she is the uncrowned Queen of her division.
“I would definitely say this is the fight of the division. Styles makes fights and it is always great when you have a fighter like Hamadouche who comes and puts the pressure on and it will be a really good action-packed fight and I think she is the second-best in the division after me of course.”
When Eddie Hearn took his Matchroom stable away from Sky, his old broadcasting partner was left with nothing in the way of boxing coverage. But Sky has returned with arguably a better range of content. Joining forces with Boxxer and Top Rank has given Sky subscribers more boxing shows than ever before.
With the Top Rank hook up, British fans will get to see Friday’s big unification fight between Mayer and Hamadouche live on Sky Sports in the early hours of Saturday morning. The reigning WBO champion sees the benefits of being seen live in a country where she one day hopes to fight:
“I’m really excited to be fighting on Sky Sports, women’s boxing is doing well in the UK and I want to be able to get in on that and hopefully, I will one day come over there to have a fight.”
We should already be well on the road to undisputed, but fate has a way of stepping in and ruining all the best-laid plans.
Terri Harper was scheduled to face Hyun-Mi Choi earlier this year but had to withdraw with a broken hand, delaying the mini-tournament between the rival champions. Harper returns one week after Mayer and Hamadouche hit Vegas, but not against Choi, which will mean an undisputed fight could be the best part of a year away.
Mayer was hoping to leave the 130 division behind after just two more fights and chase the legacy fights with the likes of Katie Taylor and others. But the unfortunate hand injury to Harper has left Mayer facing an extended stay in the super-featherweight ranks. But the American is keeping her options open and will go where the money is:
“In this division, something always happens to throw us off but it is what it is. I was definitely hoping to unify with Hamadouche and for Harper and Choi to unify this year and then I fight for the undisputed title early next year. I’d then be undisputed in two fights and ready to move up to 135 and on to other challenges But now Harper is fighting Alycia Baumgardner, I think that is still a good fight but I wish she was still unifying with Choi.
“I’m flexible I really want to go undisputed and it is still something I want to wait around for but I am going to go where the money is and I am going to take the fights that are offered. But you can never say never, things keep happening in this division you just have to take one fight at a time you can’t really have a set plan. Ideally, I would have liked two more fights at 130 and up I go.”
If everything falls into place 2022 could see Mayer and Harper fight for all the glory. There have been numerous controversial judges scorecards in recent times with the ‘away’ fighter often leaving feeling they haven’t received a fair deal.
Shannon Courtenay recently lost her world title to the American Jamie Mitchell. But despite dominating the fight, Mitchell only scraped home on the scorecards. Courtenay was a one-round swing away from retaining her title by an undeserved majority draw. Fighting Harper in a British ring is of some concern to Mayer:
“Courtenay certainly didn’t win that fight and that is definitely concerning but that is nothing new in boxing we see it all the time. I don’t know what was going through her head thinking that she had won that fight. She stayed on the ropes too much and that is one of the first things you learn in boxing, keep the fight in the centre of the ring, it just shows that you are retreating.”
Mayer overcame a troubled start to her life, the teenage rebel without a cause, as I labelled her in our very first interview. The story could have been very different, Mayer could easily have seen her life go down a completely route if boxing hadn’t come into her life.
Mayer never loses sight of where she could have been without a sport that has saved so many:
“I think about it all the time, more so because I am so settled in my life and in my career. I’m now a world champion and all the fights I have now are going to be big for me, they will be career-making or career breaking. Everything I have done, all the hard work is now paying off. So yeah, I think about it and it is a good feeling I have worked really hard, there is still a lot of work to be done but I am really proud of myself.”
Mayer has come a long way in her life, the rebel became an Olympian and then a world champion. That should be enough for anyone, but for Mayer, that is nowhere near enough. She might be outspoken and controversial at times, but it is to sell a fight, build rivalries and grow her sport. There is a clear method and reason for what she does. Mayer plays the villainess role very well.
Hamadouche is a tough ask, but Mayer is relishing the task of showing that she is the best in her division. She has achieved plenty in her life, but you get that feeling she is only just getting started.