Mikaela Mayer: “I am definitely going to take it to her. I have every intention of stopping her.”
There are times in life when you are glad to be proved wrong. The last few times I have interviewed Mikaela Mayer there was a sense, an acceptance, that a fight with her fellow American Alycia Baumgardner wouldn’t happen. In boxing, if you wait, you tend to keep on waiting. And waiting.
The fight with Baumgardner looked a fight too good to be lost in the never-ending rounds of boxing politics. But with Baumgardner talking about building up the rivalry with Mayer and fighting the WBA super-featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi, it looked like a fight that was going to be later rather than sooner. And the longer it dragged on, the risk of it never happening at all grew stronger. But out of nowhere, something changed, even to the surprise of Mayer:
“What changed was that Baumgardner and Eddie had the same problem with Choi as I did trying to get a fight with her. I don’t know what their situation was, but when we tried to fight Choi her team demanded all kinds of insane stuff to the point where they wanted Top Rank to promote her for a few fights after that. I assume they had the same problems. The super-featherweight division is the hottest division in out sport right now and Choi is holding us all up, she won’t fight anyone top tier, she’s barely fighting, it’s just really frustrating. I think that they couldn’t get a fight with Choi also and Top Rank stepped up and made her an offer.”
In April, Mayer was in London, doing media work for Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte. Her latest win over Jennifer Han still fresh in the mind and body, and probably contemplating who to fight next with a fight with Baumgardner seemingly nowhere in sight. But the UK air blew in some unexpected but welcome news:
“Top Rank came forward with an offer. I can remember being in London for the Tyson Fury fight and we were talking about the next fight and kind of dismissing the Baumgardner fight because we thought she was fighting Choi. And then I was told to stay skinny, we’ll be in touch soon.”
There have been suggestions, not so subtle hints, that Baumgardner will be going into the big unification fight with the greater financial reward, something which Mayer said just isn’t the case:
“That’s absolutely not true, there is no way she is getting paid more than me. She is probably getting the biggest payday of her life but there is no way she is getting more than I am, she’s probably getting what I got in my last fight.”
Eddie Hearn has said he believes Baumgardner will repeat her performance with Terri Harper and stop Mayer when they meet later this year. Mayer again, disagrees. And strongly:
“If she couldn’t knockout Edith Soledad Matthysse then she is definitely not knocking me out. It’s clear she does have some power but she has never gone up against somebody like me. I am by far her biggest test. People will say that she beat Terri Harper but she was never that experienced anyway. If Baumgardner thinks she will come in and just land a lucky punch it’s not happening. If she doesn’t do it quickly in the first two or three rounds then she is done for. The skills and versatility I have to outbox her, she doesn’t have that. Alycia is very one-dimensional, you can see that in her last fight with Matthysse. There was no second gear, she was coasting just trying to land that one big shot. Once I catch onto her rhythm, there is nothing she can do to adapt to me. I have had to adapt, Top Rank has built me and given me fights where I have had to challenge myself and adapt to different styles. I don’t know if she’s ready for this fight but I am ready.”
Mayer has never been short of confidence, but there seems an extra little hint of that for Baumgardner. There is obvious, and much-needed, respect for the power of her opponent, but the unified WBO and IBF champion strongly believes that she will stop Baumgardner down the stretch:
“Honestly, I think I will break her down and I don’t put it past that I will stop her. If she doesn’t respect my power, I do have power ask my previous opponents. They know I have power, they have been hit by me and they have felt my pressure. If she doesn’t respect my power then she will get stopped. I will overwhelm her with punches, and I have seen how she handles pressure, she doesn’t know how to handle pressure. She falls all over the place, she doesn’t know to hold herself on the inside, and once I catch onto her I am definitely going to take it to her. I have every intention of stopping her.”
Rematch clauses are seemingly commonplace in the modern era, especially when Matchroom fighters enter the domain. But maybe surprisingly, this is a big fight without a contracted rematch:
“There is no rematch clause, not from my side of the contract and not from what I have heard so far.”
Mayer has been vocal in saying this will be her last year at super-featherweight before a move up to lightweight next year. But Mayer needs Choi to leave for pastures new with the undisputed honours. But Mayer shows no signs of waiting for Choi if she continues to be elusive:
“I will give Choi four weeks to accept an offer. If she doesn’t do it and she wants to bullshit and demand crazy things and not lock down a deal then I will move on and just vacate my belts. I don’t care that much, I am here for the big fights. Nobody knows about Choi because she has been running around doing nothing. I don’t sit around waiting for nobody. So if she doesn’t want to fight then she will miss out on a payday exactly what I said to Baumgardner.”
Mayer says what she thinks, that we can all agree on. Some admire and understand the honesty and the straight talking, and accept it’s just part of the big sell. The rivalry with Harper never reached it’s natural conclusion. At least, not yet. But the ‘feud’ with Baumgardner feels far more personal. Mayer agrees:
“I was thinking about that the other day. I thought I didn’t like Terri Harper but I really don’t like Baumgardner. It was all business at first, like I said I never heard of Baumgardner until I turned pro a few years ago. We’ve offered her the fight on a couple of occasions and it didn’t happen. First, it was during the Pandemic and she thought she didn’t have enough time and I fought Helen Joseph instead. And then the Nevada Athletic Commission wouldn’t approve her because of the quality of her opponents, and if you look at her Boxrec record it makes sense. So the rivalry really started then when she started saying stuff, but I offered her the fight two times, one time she said no and the other they wouldn’t let her, so what does she want me to do. Then when she stopped Harper, I said right let’s go you are the next one on my hit list and then she started taking it all personally. She started saying I want to build the fight and she started getting all defensive and sensitive because I was calling her out, but that’s what you do. But if you are the champion you want to fight the best and that’s why I kept calling her out.”
It took time, and the chances of it happening, especially this year, looked remote. But everything and everyone have aligned and all parties deserve credit for getting it signed, sealed and finally delivered. With the right promotion, it will be another major move forward for women’s boxing. Mayer and Baumgardner don’t like each other, make no mistake on that, there is no fakeness here. The fight will deliver in every way imaginable. A can’t miss fight if ever there was one.
Baumgardner looked a real star in the making when she relieved Harper of her world titles in Sheffield last year. If she replicates that kind of stunning win against Mayer, that would be on another level entirely. As Mayer will tell you, she isn’t Harper.
Mayer is the type of fighter who makes you believe, and there is real conviction in her words that goes beyond the normal pre-fight ballyhoo. Baumgardner is a threat and a serious one. But Mayer, sees something that many won’t.
Details of when and where are imminent. Don’t rule out it being in the UK. But wherever it lands, Mayer vs Baumgardner will be a must watch. A proper fight and a rivalry that will thankfully see a natural resolution.