Mikaela Mayer aims for The Ring’s junior lightweight inaugural belt as the first of many
Last Saturday, the inaugural Ring junior welterweight championship belt was lifted by Chantelle Cameron in a superb performance against Mary McGee in a main event. This week, another inaugural Ring title belt will be on the line when WBO junior lightweight titlist Mikaela Mayer (15-0, 5 KOs) headlines a Top Rank card facing IBF beltholder Maiva Hamadouche (22-1, 18 KOs) on Friday Nov. 5, at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (ESPN).
There will be more Ring belts to be awarded in women’s boxing, and some of the ones out there already will eventually change hands. And Mikaela Mayer wants all of them. Either to hold them herself, or to see them being disputed on a boxing ring.
“It’s definitely something everyone will have to get used to. I’ve always said this,” said Mayer in a phone interview from Las Vegas, when asked about the frequency and the quality that we can expect from women’s boxing in the future. “The talent pool is just too deep now. There are many girls right now working their way up and wanting to stay there, and there is also a handful of pros coming up underneath who want to be in these fights.”
Mayer, 31, knows all about the steady but relentless growth of the sport she chose as a teenager. She saw women’s boxing go from being a rare occurrence to becoming a regular presence in most big cards, and she has been very open about how and where she wants the sport to grow.
For now, she is focused on seeing her own division “come of age” and crown the first-ever undisputed Ring champion, which comes at the right time and with the right fight.
“I love that, because it shows that this is the most competitive fight in the division right now,” she replies, when asked about her feelings towards the mythical belt being on the line for this bout. “Hamadouche has a great record. She is, next to me, the top player in this division. And so it is definitely a worthy fight for the Ring belt to be on the line. So yeah, extra hardware, extra motivation.”
Before leaving her mark in history by lifting the “Rocky belt” she will have to get past Hamadouche, a tough-as-nails French police officer who has held the IBF belt since 2016 and has made six defenses along the way. But Hamadouche has gone through a rough patch lately, fighting only twice in the past two years in order to devote herself to what was ultimately a failed Olympic bid.
Mayer, a 2016 US Olympian herself, knows a thing or two about the difference between the pro and amateur disciplines and training methods, and is not concerned about Hamadouche’s botched trip to the world of Olympic-style boxing and the frustration that it may have caused in her foe.
“It’s not a concern, because she has been active,” said Mayer, discussing her opponent’s potential issues with her inactivity as a pro and her foray into amateur-style boxing. ”Going back to the amateurs, you are training a lot, so I don’t expect her to be flat or anything like that. She has been training, she has been competing, and she has been doing it with different rules, so it’s very different to make that adjustment. But I don’t think that being inactive or having some ring rust will play a role. She lost in the Olympics, but it shouldn’t play into her mindset.
“The Olympics are a completely different sport, and I didn’t think it was smart for her to go back to that style, especially knowing that we had a 10-round professional fight coming up. But she did it, and it’s up to her to make those adjustments. She is a pro, so I know she will.”
A pro herself for the past four years, Mayer feels like she has already established herself as a 10-round main event fighter at least in terms of the training and focus that the task requires.
“I feel we’re making progress. We’ve had four good years as pros, and we had good experiences in good fights, so I think this is the perfect time to face someone like Hamadouche, and we’re ready.
“There’s no secret about her style. There’s no secret of what she’s going to do on Friday night. She’s going to come straight at me, she’s going to come charging hard, she’s well-conditioned and she is known for overwhelming her opponents. But once I start landing my big shots and start frustrating her, there’s really nothing else that she can switch up and do. I am the taller and longer boxer, I am faster, I am multi-dimensional, I can fight in all the areas of the ring, I can dig to the body when I need to. I am simply more well-rounded.”
As big as this fight may be for the division and for women’s boxing, there is an even bigger fight looming over the horizon, in which the winner of Mayer-Hamadouche is set to meet the winner of the bout between WBC titlist Terri Harper and American contender Alycia Baumgardner, who will be fighting on Nov. 23, in Sheffield, England.
Mayer already has a favorite in that fight, and she’s been planning on meeting her for a while now.
“I’ve always been very vocal about getting a fight against Harper for a long time, so if (Matchroom Boxing promoter) Eddie (Hearn) wants to give that fight to me next I will happily take it. I think she’s very smart. I know that when she became champion she didn’t have the experience and the skills, and they’ve been trying to build her up slowly but surely.
“But I still think that this fight between me and Hamadouche is much more worthy of a Ring title fight than Harper against (South Korea’s WBA titlist Hyun Mi) Choi or anyone else in the division. We are the best two in the division right now, me and Hamadouche. I think you made the right decision by putting the belt on the line for this one.”
Once Mayer grabs that belt, if all predictions are correct, she will have no shortage of challengers vying to lay their hands on the fabled trinket and the history that goes with it.
“I don’t know, I really wanted to be undisputed champion by early next year,” says Mayer, when asked about her next challenge should she win on Friday. “I don’t know what my next fight is going to be, but if I can’t get a fight to unify and continue on trying to be undisputed, then I’ll take whatever I can get. Maybe I’ll go up to 135 and then come back down. We’ll see what happens after this. But if Choi or Harper are available, I want those fights.”