Mikaela Mayer: “I have a little gangster in me and I can sit there and bang if I have to.“
There are nights in a fighter’s career where reputations are broken or made. Nights when they have to reach deep down into their souls, often, far deeper than they would like to. Everything comes at a price. Boxers pay a higher price than many.
Mikaela Mayer has achieved plenty in her life. The difficult early years could have seen a life of a different nature until boxing found and saved her. The Olympics followed so did the WBO super-featherweight world title, but Mayer wants more. Much more. Just a few weeks ago, Mayer had one of those nights where reputations are enhanced. Despite everything she has so far achieved, that night in Las Vegas probably was the pinnacle. At least for now.
Maiva Hamadouche would have broken many a fighter that night. Mayer tweeted she had done the rest of her division a favour in removing Hamadouche from the equation. She might be right, at least in the short term. Mayer vs Hamadouche was some fight, from the opening seconds they went right at each other. If they were still fighting now, nothing would change. It was that kind of fight. Women’s boxing has had many good nights in recent times, that fight may just have topped the lot. Boxing just doesn’t get much better than what Mayer and Hamadouche served up.
Mayer 31, put everything into that fight, mentally and physically it took plenty out of her. Just two weeks removed from the fight with Hamadouche, Mayer told FightPost how much the body and mind was still feeling the effects from Vegas:
“I have honestly slept for most of the last three days, I haven’t been able to wake up I am so exhausted. I think mentally this fight was so important because there was so much on the line. It’s such an extreme lifestyle it really is, especially after my last fight. I was definitely a little bit sore around my head. But my body felt good I was in such good shape for that fight, but our heads were bumping so I am a little sore on my head. My stomach is a little swollen and my body aches and it is from all the eating I have done since the fight with everything that you have deprived your body from leading up to the fight, you are basically detoxing your body in preparation for a fight and making weight.”
The now unified WBO & IBF super-featherweight champion of the world has certainly celebrated her big victory and deservedly so, giving the body what it has been denied in the torturous training camp leading up to the biggest fight of her life. Weight cuts are brutal, often worryingly so, but the American has a tried and tested method of getting her body down to the super-featherweight limit:
“I do my weight cut very scientifically. I start my weight cut around 148lbs and then during the course of a training camp, I get down to 130. I get down to 137 and cut the remaining 7lbs in fight week.”
Surprisingly with a fight of this magnitude and how it unfolded, Mayer hasn’t yet watched the fight back in its entirety:
“I haven’t watched it back yet. Like I said I got home Tuesday and I have been sleeping more or less ever since. Coach Al keeps calling me and asks if I have watched it. I’ve watched parts of it, I’ve gone back and watched highlights of certain rounds. But I haven’t sat down and watched the whole fight in full and given each round my attention. I’m just so excited that people are so happy about the fight and people were so entertained by it and they say I haven’t seen a fight like that since forever. And it is not just a good women’s fight that they are saying it is a fight of the year candidate and they are also saying it is one the best fights period. So that makes me really really happy.”
The fight more than lived up to what everyone expected. Hamadouche has that come forward all-action style that can’t fail to deliver action-packed fights. There were issues and a certain degree of disdain over the wide scorecards. The three ringside judges rendered unanimous cards of 100-90, 99-91, 98-92.
Despite the controversy, this observer had it similar to the paid officials, certainly, the 98-92 card looked about right to me. Every round was extremely competitive and decided by fine margins, but that doesn’t always mean the scorecards will reflect the closeness of those rounds. I had Mayer winning the vast majority of the rounds, and I get and understand the official scorecards, and trust me, I don’t always say that. Mayer herself doesn’t see the problem with how wide the scoring was:
“Some people are a little upset with the scorecards, but ultimately they saying I won the fight. Some rounds were close but you can’t look at a fight and score it closer than what it was. You have to give a winner for each individual round. During the fight I felt like I was winning, I am normally very self-critical and hard on myself, but I felt comfortable and I knew I was landing these clean hard shots. I felt I was in control and I knew that I was winning. Yeah she threw double the amount of punches I did, her punch count was high but that wasn’t our game plan. We knew were not going to match her punch for punch that isn’t our style you have to be selective with your punches. I landed more punches even though I threw half the punches she did.”
For the most part, the fight was fought at close quarters very much at pickpocket range, seemingly every punch that was landed by either fighter came with a harder reply. Every round was the same, a personal savage battle for supremacy. It got more intense with each passing second. There were times when Mayer found a little space and the fight was a little easier for her, but space was hard to find:
“I knew after the first round she wouldn’t let me keep this space and I knew this from the beginning that she would close that space well. After that first round, I didn’t feel the power that she was so hyped up to have. I told Coach Al I could handle her power. I knew that if I tried to keep that space she would catch me at the end of her punches and also it would look like I am retreating. So I said I am going to sit here and bang with her and bully her and let her know that she can’t push me against the ropes like she has done to other opponents. That’s not the way to beat her. Strictly boxing her is not the way to beat her, she would just close that space.”
The Mayer-Hamadouche fight never let up, round after round followed the same relentless brutal pattern. The pace was frenetic for the full 10 rounds, but somehow, Mayer stayed within the moment, the mind staying where it needed to be and it almost certainly resulted in Mayer winning the fight. Anything else the result could have been very different. Despite the war that was raging the American enjoyed the whole experience:
“Sometimes after a fight, I think that was a blur, but this fight I felt like very much in the moment. Even though Hamadouche was throwing so many punches and it was probably the most fast-paced fight I have been in, it was in my mind slow. That’s why I didn’t get caught up with just throwing punches like she did and I could pick my shots and dig to the body. So I was enjoying it and I knew people would be entertained by it.”
Mayer shouldn’t have to prove herself to anybody, her resume should speak for itself. But respect by the masses is sometimes hard-earned and painfully too. Any lingering doubters would have vacated their rooms of doubt within seconds of the final bell:
“I certainly think I got a lot of respect for this fight and especially from those people who didn’t think I had the strength or the guts to stand with Hamadouche and just thought I was a hype job. I have a little gangster in me and I can sit there and bang if I have to. I showed that I am a well-rounded fighter and I can do multiple things.”
Mayer is enjoying a well-earned break, but it will be a relatively short one. Plans are already being made for her next fight Mayer told FightPost:
“My manager told me they are looking at March for when I fight again.”
Who the opponent will be, remains to be seen. In our last interview, Mayer told me things keep happening in our division that delays the planned full unification of the super-featherweight ranks. On Saturday night in Sheffield, something happened once again.
Terri Harper was the money fight for Mayer, the fight she craved the most, the one that was looking likely to decide all things undisputed later this year. But Harper suffered a shocking and devastating upset defeat to the impressive Alycia Baumgardner in 4 one-sided rounds. There is the obligatory rematch clause in place, but Harper might be well advised to rebuild her shattered confidence in another direction.
There is now uncertainty in a division that rarely fails to bring drama. Mayer has options, the Harper defeat could lead to a fight with another belt on the line, or Mayer may have to settle for a stay busy defence of her current titles before the planned sweeping up of the remaining belts continues later in the year.
But Mayer vs Baumgardner is a serious fight, it could be the fight of the division. If it happens next, few would complain. With the 130lbs jinx, it probably needs to be made without further delay.
The American doesn’t lack for confidence, which can attract a mixed response on social media. But Mayer believes that self-belief is vital for a fighter, but it shouldn’t lead to overlooking an opponent. The fight with Hamadouche the perfect example.
“I’ve always been confident. In boxing, you need a little bit of an ego and confidence but at the same time, you need to remain humble because you never know what could happen. So even though I was really confident going into the fight with Hamadouche but at the same time it’s a boxing match and she had 21 wins with 18 knockouts and I knew it would be my toughest fight and she was going to put it on me. So there was this level of humbleness and respect I had to have for her so I could train as hard as I did. I had to train the hardest I have ever trained in my life. So to get through that fight in the manner that I did it is building confidence within myself.”
In the coming months Mayer will need a little patience to go with her confidence. After the Hamadouche win she was looking at two more fights to become undisputed before as she says: “Up I go.” Mayer may now have to wait a little longer. Mayer wants those big fights, the money fights, the legacy fights. Hamadouche was nowhere near the summit of her climb.
Judging by the smile on her face that greeted me when the Zoom call started Mayer is happy with her life. But happy doesn’t mean content, the super-featherweight ranks are still unfinished business, the lightweight division and Katie Taylor the targets for the future. The fight with Hamadouche proved many things, but Mayer is looking to prove much more.