Mikaela Mayer: “I am the A-side and I will always be the A-side against Baumgardner.”

Mikaela Mayer: “I am the A-side and I will always be the A-side against Baumgardner.”

Unbeaten, a unified world champion Mikaela Mayer has plenty. But it isn’t enough. Nowhere near enough. Being a champion doesn’t satisfy. Mayer wants to be THE champion. The only champion.

For someone who doesn’t do routine, such a defence of her world super-featherweight world titles would have been with much frustration. With an old-school mindset, Mayer is a refreshing change in an era of much avoidance. A recent defence against Jennifer Han served a purpose, at least for now.

Al Mitchell her coach of many things knows boxing probably better than most, and grades his pupil after each fight. Mitchell is strict, praise is hard-earned and not given for the sake to please. The globetrotting Mayer has not yet watched her latest win back, but the fight is still fresh in the mind for personal critique. Over Zoom a few weeks ago, Mayer told me the fight went exactly how her coach anticipated:

“I’d have to rewatch it again to give you an actual grade. I’ve not actually watched it again, I’ve been on the go since the fight, spent time with the family, been over to the U.K, and then I am heading to New York, so I haven’t had time to watch it back. I think she was exactly like Coach Al trained me for. The way she moves, the way she circles and when she gets inside she just grabs you. He always tells me these things but I don’t realise how spot-on he is until I get in the ring with my opponent. She definitely held onto and pulled on me more than I expected it was very rough in there and I was a little sore and my neck really hurt after. Things like that were what I had to adapt to. Coach Al said I got away from my jab, but I hurt her and I felt like I had her retreating the whole time and you could tell she was surviving because of her movement. If I had a few more rounds I think I would have finished her.”

Han came to Leeds last year to fight Katie Taylor and lost widely on the cards to the Irish superstar. But Mayer faced a much better version of Han when they clashed for the WBO/IBF and Ring Magazine belts last month and demonstrated multiple layers in her performance:

“She said that in the press conference. She had lost a lot of weight just and had just had a baby and wasn’t the best of her. I got a better version of her, we knew that and we expected it. Coming off a fight with Katie Taylor you are going to be sharp. It was the same with me after my fight with Hamadouche, you train so hard and you reach a new level so I expected us both to be at our best. But I punished her more than Katie Taylor did.”

After an even opening three rounds, Mayer stepped through the gears to take control of the fight as the rounds progressed. Mayer showed different sides to her game, and looked on the verge of stopping her opponent at different stages of the fight. In many ways, the Mayer win and performance were more impressive than the one Taylor got over Han, and Mayer agrees her performance highlighted the different sides of her ring skills:

“I really feel I am a versatile boxer and I haven’t been able to show everything I can do yet. I think I am one of the most versatile out there and I showed a big part of that in the Hamadouche fight. I fought her the way nobody thought I could fight. I knew Han wouldn’t be in any way similar to Hamadouche but it allowed me to show my ring IQ and how I can adjust and adapt. Han would have had a lot of these girls falling in and missing, she likes to duck, roll out and move and so she can be the type of fighter to make you look bad.”

Mayer was ringside in New York when Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano served up a fight for the ages on the biggest night in women’s boxing history. Mayer has more than a passing interest in sharing a ring with Taylor, but she has more immediate business with a fellow American, Alycia Baumgardner the WBC and IBO super-featherweight champion. But Baumgardner seems intent on forming her own patch and looks set to face the WBA titleholder, Hyun Mi Choi, before any meeting with Mayer, much to the frustration of Mayer:

“They have made it clear it is not going to happen next. It’s not me we want the fight. Eddie has lost belts to me already so he wants to make sure when we do go he has more leverage. As of now, I am the A-side and I will always be the A-side against Baumgardner. They need to come to me, I am not making it difficult. But I think Eddie believes if she beats Choi he can somehow manoeuvre that fight into his backyard.

“I also think she needs more experience to fight someone like me, I don’t think she is ready and I think Eddie knows that too. I think he is trying to just get her some rounds now, the same thing he did with Terri Harper. He wants to manoeuvre so it happens at the perfect time and then guess what the fight never happens. I really hope that is not the case this time around but I am going to sit around and fight girls like Baumgardner just fought. I didn’t want to fight someone like Han because I want to continue to unify, but I thought with Han coming off a big fight with Katie was a good decision. But I want to fight champions, so if I have to go up to lightweight I will do that.”

Mayer has already taken a world title away from the Matchroom bubble when she beat Ewa Brodnicka in 2020 for the vacant WBO title and there is a feeling Mayer is too dangerous a fighter to be let back in and the potential fight with Baumgardner comes to nothing in a sea of never-ending boxing politics. But Mayer believes in time, she will be allowed back in:

“He’s got to let me in. I am in the most competitive division right now. If Eddie wants these big fights he needs me. Baumgardner keeps saying I need her, I don’t need anything I have options. I have three belts that they want, she has one, the IBO belt doesn’t count. If she wants to be the top dog then she has to beat the current top dog which is me. I’m game to fight and that is what a lot of champions don’t want to do, I’m prepared to put my belts and my arse on the line.

“I want to give the fans what they deserve. The cool thing about this era is we can set our own pace and narrative, we don’t have to do what the last generation did. We don’t have to be worried about losing our 0 and waste two years trying to make these big fights. I’m not like that and that’s not what I am going to do.”

Baumgardner won her belts last year in Sheffield in that stunning one-punch stoppage of Terri Harper. The American had the look of a real star but was given a last-minute almost throwaway defence of her titles in Manchester last month against the tough but limited Edith Soledad Matthysse. Baumgardner retained her titles with some comfort on the cards, but from ringside, it was a fight with little or no crowd engagement and did little to enhance the reputation of the American. Mayer agrees and also believes it highlighted the shortcomings of her rival:

“I don’t think the fight did her any favours. That fight won’t make her better and it showed that she doesn’t have that second gear. In my fights, I might start slowly but I always kick into that second and third gear. Baumgardner never did that against someone who she needed to do that with. She may have power and that might be her best quality but you need more than that at the top level. She proved that she isn’t on my level yet.

“Women’s boxing is so on fire right now, let’s make it happen. The way she performs I am not sure she will get through Choi if I am being honest. I am not a fan of Choi but Alycia boxes one way and she might not get through her next few opponents I think we should make the fight now.”

Mayer has recently signed a new and improved multi-fight deal with Top Rank, and this is another sign of the growth of her sport but also of Mayer herself:

“Ever since I signed with Top Rank I always thought I was still having to prove myself to the American market, which is a harder to crack. But the fight with Hamadouche really set me apart and got people looking. The new contract is everything I have been working for. It is going to set me up for life it is the contract of a lifetime. The minimums that are set are unheard of in women’s boxing. It definitely motivates me because it doesn’t get any easier from here. The fights are going to get tougher and there is a lot more to lose. I’m ready for the pressure I have always asked for this kind of pressure and I have always said it is a privilege to have this sort of pressure.”

Mayer could quite easily be content with her achievements, they are many and impressive. But the ambitions go beyond what she has now. This observer believes the boxing Gods will conspire to deny us a fight that has the look of one that could even rival Taylor/Serrano for action, but while there is hope, we can also. The Baumgardner fight is too good to be lost. But Mayer won’t wait. This year will be her last in her current division, and then Mayer will move up looking for fights that will match her ambitions. Baumgardner or not, Mayer seems destined for more. Much more.

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