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.
By: Ken Hissner
When I watched unbeaten 2016 Lightweight Olympian Mikaela Mayer in her most recent bout against Edna Kiss, 14-7(8), I knew she was a prospect to keep an eye on when she scored a stoppage at the end of the third round. I noticed Philadelphia’s Al Mitchel in her corner. I later found out that Kay Karoma was the co-trainer along with Mitchel and George Ruiz of Santa Monica, CA, her manager with all three since 2017. Ruiz is the CEO at Intelligent Arts & Artists.
This writer has written articles on women boxers and without a doubt super lightweight Lucia “The Dutch Destroyer” Rijker, 17-0 (14), of Amsterdam, Netherlands was the best I have ever seen. Super Middleweight Ann “Brown Sugar” Wolfe, 24-1 (16), of Waco, Texas, was another top female boxer.
Photo Credit: Mikaela Mayer Twitter Account
In viewing Mayer, now 7-0 (4), she had what seemed like such a long reach and a jab to stop you in your tracks. Earlier in her career she defeated tough and durable Nydia “Dha Phenomenal” Feliciano, then 9-8, out of the Bronx, NY, by a majority decision over 4 rounds at Madison Square Garden, in New York, in Mayer’s third fight. Two judges had it 40-36 and the other 38-38. “Mikaela is a rare combination of talent, determination and marketability. She’s going to be a household name soon,” said Ruiz.
Mayer started boxing at the age of 17 in kick boxing. Northern Michigan University coach Al Mitchel has worked with her for the past 10 years. Born in Woodland Hills, CA, Mayer lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where her co-trainer Kay Karoma. He works with boxers at the Olympic gym in Colorado Springs. The first six of Mayer’s fights have been at 131 ¼ or 131 ½. In her last bout she came in at 129½ against Kiss. She may stay at Super Featherweight having just turned 28 in July and is 5:09.
“I think it’s going to be a great fight and she is getting better and better with each fight. She has the height and can go up from super featherweight. We have a good team with coach Kay and the cut man is coach Manny Robles along with George Ruiz the manager,” said Mitchel.
Mayer will be on the undercard this Saturday on the WBO World Welterweight title defense of champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, 33-0 (24) against Jose Benavidez, Jr., 27-0 (18), at the CHI Health Center, Omaha, Nebraska, over ESPN.
In 2016 she represented the USA Olympic team at lightweight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She defeated Jennifer Chieng representing the (FSM) Federated States of Micronesia by a score of 3-0. In the second round she lost to eventual Bronze Medalist Anastasia Beliakova, of Russia by a score of 2-0.
KEN HISSNER: Mikaela, did you start boxing or kick boxing when you started at age 17?
MIKAELA MAYER: I first walked into a Muay Thai kickboxing gym when I was 17.
KEN HISSNER: Who was your boxing trainer at the beginning?
MIKAELA MAYER: I competed in Muay Thai the first year and competed in ten smoker shows. After a year my trainer suggested I took some boxing fights to develop my hands. I never went back. My first trainer was Ricardo O’Kane who ran Mejero Gym in Canoga Park, CA. He was a Muay Thai cash so when I became serious about boxing I started looking in the other direction to better my skills. That’s when I ended up taking the boxing scholarship to NMU and meeting Al Mitchel.
KEN HISSNER: What was your record as an amateur?
MIKAELA MAYER: I couldn’t tell you my amateur record but I had about 135 fights.
KEN HISSNER: In order to make the Olympic team who did you fight in the Olympic Trials?
MIKAELA MAYER: Making the Olympic team at 132 in the US was a definite challenge because it has always been a very competitive weight. In the 2016 Olympic Trials I had 5 fights and had to fight against girls such as Amateur World Champion Tiara Brown and Youth World Champion and Youth Olympic Gold Medalist, Jajaira Gonzalez. It was a hell of a tournament and one of my greatest accomplishments. However winning the US Trials wasn’t the last step qualification for the games. I had to qualify internationally as well because only 12 countries per weight can qualify for boxing. I had 2 chances…I either had to win Gold at the 2016 Continental Games or place Top 4 in the World Championships. The Continental Games came first and I and I ended up beating Canada, Puerto Rico and then Mexico in the finals to secure my spot at the Rio Games. It’s funny because I didn’t grow up around boxing and I’m the first one in my family to pursue and show interest in it. Also when I started….this career was non-existent. Women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics yet and promoters didn’t sign women. There wasn’t really a boxer to emulate or a path to follow….what I wanted to do was different and hadn’t been done. But I have always been a fan of Lucia Rijker (who is an amazing human being as well as a fighter) and “Sugar” Ray Leonard.
KEN HISSNER: How did you get involved with Coach Al and Coach Kay?
MIKAELA MAYER: At 19 I had come off a few losses and unhappy with my training. My first trainer was a great guy but just didn’t have all the boxing experience to take me any further, and he knew it too. My dad had seen an ad on the USA Boxing website about a boxing scholarship to NMU where I could go to college and train with a 2x Olympic coach (Al Mitchell). I was still down from my losses so I just told my dad to go ahead and look into it. Two weeks later I was on a plane from L.A. to the frozen tundra of Marquette, Michigan. I had no idea what I was getting into. I showed up in a pink velour juicy suit and Ugg boots, haha. I froze my ass off for 4 years.
The funding for school was cut after just one year but I knew coach Al was going take me where I wanted to go. We just fell short of making the 2012 Olympic team but I continued to fly up and train with him in camps and eventually moved up there and got a place to train full time for 2016 trials. Coach Kay was the assistant coach for the 2016 games and resident coach at the Olympic training center when I turned pro, it all started to unfold so fast and within one month I was having to move out of the training center and get ready to have my first fight in 4 weeks. Kay knew me as a fighter so I asked him if he would help get me ready until coach Al would fly in. Coach Kay and Coach Al work great together. Coach Kay gets me ready for the first 3-4 weeks and then Coach Al flies in for the last 2 weeks to strategize and break down the game plan for our opponent.
I don’t know much about my opponent other than her fighting style. Coach Al is very big on studying tape. He watches my opponent about 150 times (no joke) and we’ll watch her together about 4-5 times. Despite their experience….we always look at what they do best and strategize for that specific strength. That’s how I learn and continue to grow….we don’t look past anyone.
KEN HISSNER: I see the promoter is Top Rank. Are you signed with them?
MIKAELA MAYER: Yes, in August of 2017 I signed a multi-year contract with Top Rank Promotions as their only female fighter. This was such an honor and so huge for women’s boxing. I had a job to represent more than myself in this new journey but it was the challenge I was looking for after the Olympics.
KEN HISSNER: What’s the reason why you still do you’re camps?
MIKAELA MAYER: One of the reasons I continue to do my camps here in Colorado Springs because there is never a lack of sparring partners. USA Boxing still graciously allows me to join their camps and use their facility which has been such a huge help. You also have Triple Threat out here where (Terence) Crawford does his camps as well as a few others so there is always a fighting environment. I truly feel it’s the best place to train. Great facility, trainers, a great team environment, and not to mention the altitude which is a huge advantage that most of my opponents aren’t getting.
KEN HISSNER: I want to wish you nothing but the best in the future in boxing and in life thanking you for taking the time to answer these questions. I also want to thank your manager George Ruiz for helping us get together.