Mikaela Mayer hopes to improve women’s boxing with a win

Mid 1990s Christy Martin led to a surge of interest in women’s boxing. She appeared regularly on the pay-per-view portion of Mike Tyson Cards and became an unmissable fighter.

Martin was a legitimate talent and was rightfully inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for her efforts earlier this year. But sadly, in Martin’s era, women’s boxing never grew beyond the curiosity stage.

The depth of talent was incredibly shallow and the promoters treated most of the women’s fights as sideshows.

Thankfully, however, those days are over for women’s fighting game, although there is still some considerable uphill struggle to achieve full equality. There are more elite women’s boxers than ever before, and putting a women’s fight on a map is a legitimate addition and no longer just a side attraction.

With fighters like Claressa Shields, Savannah Marshall, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Seniesa Estrada, Mikaela Mayer, Alycia Baumgardner, Jessica McCaskill and more, women’s football is teeming with talent. Better yet, they’re all looking for the best challenges.

So with men’s boxing there’s always a question if/when there’s going to be a fight that the fans want to see – nowadays it’s Terence Crawford and Errol Spence – that doesn’t happen in women’s boxing.

On Saturday in London, Mayer’s vision of what she wants to make of women’s football will blossom when she meets Baumgardner in a super featherweight unification bout on an all-women’s card streaming on ESPN+.

She is at Top Rank, by far the industry’s leading promoter, but until recently she was the only woman on the roster. Top Rank signed Estrada after Estrada had problems with Golden Boy, their former promoter. But before Top Rank added Estrada, it sought Mayer’s blessing.

However, women’s football cannot really grow unless all promoters are fully committed. Lou DiBella has been doing this for a long time, as has Matchroom Boxing. But other promoters were slow to join the party.

Mayer knew that being the only woman on Top Rank’s roster made her unique, but she was always in favor of expanding.

“When Top Rank first signed me [after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil], I definitely had in mind that I still had to prove to them that I was a worthy mark,” Mayer said. “Because they weren’t in the women’s boxing market and I was something of a risk, wasn’t I? I was just kind of a guinea pig. And so my goal was to prove to them that not only was I worthy, but that women’s boxing is here to stay. And I wanted them to sign another woman for years.

“It took a little longer than I hoped and expected, but I’m glad they finally made it. I think Seniesa is a great character. She’s a great, down to earth person. But it just shows you that the market in America is just tough. It’s just very, very hard. I’m not a promoter so I can’t go into details but I hope I did my job reasonably well. I feel like maybe I did my job and somehow proved to them that there is a market for women’s boxing here. And hopefully Seniesa isn’t her last sign.”

Mayer has more than done her part. She is 17-0 with five KOs and holds the WBO and IBF super featherweight belts. She has consistently sought out the best fights, has been an outspoken advocate for the sport and has proven herself as an analyst alongside Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher on some of its streaming cards.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: (L-R) Mikaela Mayer, Bob Arum and Alycia Baumgardner pose during the press conference ahead of their Super Featherweight Single Championship Bout at Canary Riverside Plaza Hotel on September 08, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

WBO super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer (L), promoter Bob Arum and WBC champion Alycia Baumgardner (R) pose during the press conference ahead of their unification bout on Saturday in London. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

Fighting the hard-hitting WBC title-holder Baumgardner is the kind of fight she’s been looking for. She could have held out and gotten her own date, but felt it was more appropriate as a co-main event for Shields and Marshall, who are fighting for the undisputed middleweight title in the main event.

Experience against elite opposition may be Mayer’s greatest asset. Baumgardner is 11-1 with seven KOs, but she’s dealing with a number of opponents who have lost records. That doesn’t mean she can’t fight – just look at what she did to Terri Harper in a title fight last year – but it does mean Mayer knows firsthand what it takes at the absolute highest level.

Mayer said she tried to fight Baumgardner in Las Vegas a few years ago, but the Nevada Athletic Commission dismissed the fight as unfair play.

“I said that, she wasn’t tested,” Mayer said. “She hasn’t been tested. Now she’s done her thing against Terri Harper. great for her I never thought Terri Harper was that good anyway. I’ve always told everyone that I’m a cut above Terri Harper. I don’t think that was the best Terri Harper that night either, but whatever. She did her thing against Terri. You can’t take that away from her. But she wasn’t tested the way I was. She didn’t compete against styles and former world champions and world champions like I did.

“That’s why I say I feel like I’m a step above her. Top Rank did a great job of moving me and giving me different styles and opponents in the last 17 fights. And I’m ready for this fight. I don’t know if she’s ready for this fight. Once she’s out of her comfort zone and taking her into the deep waters I’ll take her to, we’ll see. We’ll see if she can swim, honestly.”

COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 9: Mikaela Mayer is victorious as she defeats Jennifer Han during their WBO and IBF junior lightweight championship bout at The Hangar on April 9, 2022 in Costa Mesa, California.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

WBO super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer hopes to raise the profile of women’s boxing. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

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