By: Kirk Jackson
Mikaela Mayer (13-0, 5 KO’s) returned Tuesday evening on ESPN via Top Rank Boxing, headlining an event that was slated to feature defending WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring (21-2, 10 KO’s) vs. Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19 KO’s).
The 2016 U.S. Olympian and current unbeaten junior lightweight contender, comprehensively out-boxed Nigeria’s Helen Joseph (17-4-2, 10 KO’s) over 10 rounds in their main even at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Mayer made history in the process, becoming the first female bout to headline a show on ESPN since Top Rank began its output deal in 2017.
At slated earlier, Herring was scheduled to defend his 130-pound title versus Puerto Rico’s Oquendo, but plans were nixed with a positive coronavirus test result. The 34-year old southpaw tested positive on June 20, thus postponing their July 2 bout by 12 days. The second test result surfaced shortly before Monday’s weigh-in, ultimately cancelling the bout.
Mayer, can relate to Herring’s struggle and received encouraging words and support heading into her bout last night from the champ. Part of Mayer’s recent struggles based around inactivity, were the cancellations and postponements she encountered leading up to this fight.
Mayer lost out on two fight dates due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The initial outbreak cancelled her plans for a fight with former featherweight titlist Melissa Hernandez this past St. Patrick’s Day in New York City, while a false positive test postponed her originally scheduled June 9 bout with Joseph.
The cancellations are well documented, but the Olympian is no stranger to adversity. Growing up one of three daughters, her upbringing and hardships encountered helped mold and instill the tenacity and dedication Mayer fights with.
Without her coach, she still performed well, with coaches Kay Koroma and Manny Robles filling in his absence.
Mayer displayed her talents, showcasing versatility, adaptability and consistency against a former world champion and current top contender. On average, Mayer landed more than 50 punches per round, landing 195 of 538 total punches at a 36% rate, while limiting the game Joseph, to 86 of 377 (23%).
Obvious highlights from Mayer display her stiff jab, right uppercuts she was able to sneak in, hooks downstairs, hooking off the jab, and fluid foot movement. Mayer was able to fight at her range and pace for most of the fight. The control of those aspects, are due to her improved foot work and overall progression.
The ability to recognize subtle moves, actions and reactions from the opponent, while implementing successful changes in such a quick span of time, is a reflection of intelligence meeting skill. To apply this collection of tools against top tier opposition at the highest level of the sport, is the fruition that Mayer is ready for a shot at the world title.
Moving forward, can Mayer receive the fights she is seeking and that ultimate achievement of capturing a world title?
“Honestly, I’m a little offended that you guys thought it would be competitive,” Mayer told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna during her post-fight interview. “It tells me that you guys underestimated me.”
“Bob (Arum) told me ‘Nice job’ and that my next fight will be for the title,” insists Mayer. “I told him I’m going to hold him to his word. Don’t let Eddie Hearn out buy us.”
Now the question begs, what is her future? The pandemic definitely complicates matters, with restrictions to travel among other issues. It’s clear the ESPN headliner, is deserving of a title shot. If Mayer can manifest her destiny that started over a decade ago, capturing a world title, can she catapult into super star status?
Her 2016 Olympic teammate Claressa Shields is blazing trails and creating history. Mayer aims to add more history of her own. Women’s boxing is packed with talent and this is an opportune time for these athletes to receive much deserved attention.
The sport is filled with outstanding legends, champions and challengers alike. The aforementioned Shields, Amanda Serrano, Franchon Crews Dezurn, Christina Hammer, Katie Taylor, Raquel Miller, Cecilia Braekhus, Hannah Gabriels, Mariana Juárez, Debora Anahí López, Yésica Bopp, Jennifer Han, Terri Harper, Mary McGee, Jessica McCaskill, Marie-Ève Dicaire, Elin Cederroos, Heather Hardy, Delfine Persoon, Sulem Urbina and many, many others.
Now it’s a matter of continuing the evolution of the sport and continuing elevate the level of recognition to higher plateaus.
Mayer mentioned reaching heights similar to former UFC champion Ronda Rousey. While sharing some common traits, their paths ultimately differ and the world is different now than when Rousey took the world by storm.
The odds of Mayer replicating that comparative measure of success may be more challenging provided this set of circumstances. Ultimately reaching goals and defining success and is up for interoperation for the individual.
Regardless of the outcome and what transpires down the road, Mayer appears ready to take on challenge no matter how daunting and she will not be denied.