Mikaela Mayer makes history as The Ring’s first womens’ 130-pound champion
LAS VEGAS – Even on paper, this didn’t look good.
WBO junior lightweight titlist Mikaela Mayer was a 31-year-old, 5-foot-9 undefeated fighter with a 66½” reach who’s never had a close fight in her professional life.
IBF 130-pound titlist Maiva Hamadouche was a 32-year-old, 5-foot-4 fighter with a 64” reach from France who had six successful title defenses. But her last fight happened to be a split-decision loss at lightweight in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympics. It also happened to be against Finland’s Mira Potkonen, a 40-year-old mother of two and oldest female to fight and win in the Olympics.
Time to wince—because you knew what was coming.
Well, not exactly.
Hamadouche was a blonde Energizer Bunny that kept hopping at the taller, rangier Mayer, who needed some rounds to adjust.
Once she established her distance, Mayer (16-0, 5 knockouts) landed the cleaner, harder punches against the rugged Hamadouche (22-2, 18 KOs) en route to a hard fought unanimous decision victory on Friday at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in a Top Rank card televised on ESPN.
Judges Tim Cheatham (98-92), Max DeLuca (99-91) and Lisa Giampa (100-90) had it all for Mayer, though many at ringside thought the fight was far closer than the judge’s scores indicated. The Ring had it at ringside for Mayer, 97-93.
The Mayer victory unifies the WBO and IBF titles—and gives Mayer a piece of history as The Ring’s inaugural womens’ junior lightweight world champion.
“(I showed) I could bang it out on the inside. That wasn’t really the entire game plan,” Mayer said. “The game plan was to use my jab, but in the back of my head, I knew she was going to keep it close, keep me on the inside. Even though we trained for that, just being able to do that for 10 straight rounds taught me a lot.
“This is everything I trained for. It really hasn’t even sunk in, but I’m proud of what I did. I’m proud of my team. We’re going to celebrate this one, for sure.”
CompuBox Stats showed Mayer set personal bests for punches thrown (594) and landed (239), since Hamadouche crowded her throughout the fight, landing 233 of 872 punches. Mayer’s most pronounced advantage came with the body attack, where she held a 78 to 13 edge over Hamadouche.
Seconds after the opening bell, the two went at each immediately. Despite the size difference, Mayer couldn’t keep Hamadouche off of her. Mayer used her jab, though not consistently enough for Hamadouche to pound her body.
In the second, Hamadouche stung Mayer with a right, and followed up seconds later with a left. She kept burrowing in and Mayer wasn’t able to do anything to fend her off.
After two rounds, it appeared Hamadouche was up.
Mayer appeared to use her height and reach in the third. She made Hamadouche pay every time she tried getting in close. A crisp left hook to the face was the best punch of the fight, so far, for Mayer.
The fourth round marked the same—Mayer catching Hamadouche has she neared to the body and the head. A Mayer left uppercut bounced Hamadouche’s head back about three-quarters through the round.
In the sixth, Hamadouche came at Mayer again. But Hamadouche slowed. She punched herself out, swaying the round to Mayer, who looked like she had Hamadouche out with a straight right to the head, followed by a left hook.
But Hamadouche stayed up, taking the shots like worn leather.
Again, in the seventh, Hamadouche bore in, and again, Mayer staved off the onslaught until the latter portion of the round, connecting with a right to the jaw that pulled Hamadouche back.
As the rounds progressed, Mayer’s accuracy increased. She used her size to push Hamadouche off of her.
“This was a sensational fight, one of the best fights of the year, male or female. These two ladies are a credit to the sport, and they left it all in the ring,” said Top Rank CEO and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “It was a close fight, but I felt Mikaela did more than enough to have her hand raised.”
By the eighth, Hamadouche’s punches had nothing behind them. They were more like tap drills. In the ninth, Mayer landed a strong overhand right, and it appeared Mayer had control of the fight. Hamadouche couldn’t do anything to hurt Mayer.
The opening of the 10th, Mayer, using distance, slammed Hamadouche to the head. Hamadouche eventually closed, though couldn’t keep Mayer off of her, backing Hamadouche into a corner as the final bell sounded.
“I really wanted to show everyone in the division,” Mayer said. “The naysayers that I didn’t have the power and the grit to stay in there for 10 rounds with Hamadouche that I am the best in the division. I am coming to be undisputed, and I want the big fights. I’m definitely a threat.”
In the eight-round, junior lightweight co-feature, Luis Melendez (17-1, 13 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Thomas Mattice (17-3-1, 13 KOs). Two of Mattice’s three defeats have come in his last four fights, although he did outland Melenedez 81 to 44 over the second half of the fight, according to CompuBox stats, and held advantages in jabs landed (65-28) and power punches landed (66-64).
Judges Patricia Morse Jarman, Chris Migliore and Dave Moretti all had it 77-75 for Melenedez.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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