Mikaela Mayer, a professional boxer from Los Angeles, California, will be debuting on ESPN Saturday night, marking her first, but likely not last, appearance on the network. She will face Edina Kiss in the ring at the Gila River Arena, Arizona at 10:30 p.m ET.
“ESPN+ was definitely an opportunity for people to see me fight and mature, so that was cool, but I’ve been waiting for my first televised fight. I think it’s happening at the perfect time. I’ve learned a lot this past year. I’m ready to showcase my skills in front of the world,” Mayer told Inside the Ropes.
In 2017, Mayer signed with the promotion company Top Rank, which marked the start of her professional career. However, she is already highly recognized in the lightweight and light welterweight divisions of the sport, and represented Team USA during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Here’s what you need to know about Mayer ahead of her 7th professional fight against Kiss Saturday night:
1. Mayer Found Purpose & Direction in Boxing, After Nearly Becoming a High School Dropout
Mayer, who was raised in Los Angeles by her father, was on her way to dropping out of school when she found boxing. According to NBC Sports, she had attended four schools in three years, and continued getting in trouble for fighting and bad grades.
“All I cared about was my friends, and going out and partying, and being a young, cool teenager,” Mayer told NBC. “I was looking for something, but I had no idea what.”
Mayer, a 17-year-old model at the time, realized that she had no future with the path she was on, and decided to do something about it. She started practicing muay thai and kickboxing at a little storefront gym down the road from her dad’s house in San Fernando Valley, before she moved on to boxing.
“I was hungry for success in something at that time, because I wasn’t doing well at anything,” Mayer said. “I was like, ‘I want to be good at something.’ It’s always been inside me. I’ve always had that fire. I didn’t have anywhere to direct it.”
She became a Golden Gloves champion just a few years later, according to NBC. When the Olympics added a women’s tournament in 2010, Mayer and her father, Mark, decided to “chase medals.”
2. Mayer Was The First Woman Taught By Boxing Coach Al Mitchell, Who Has Coached Several Olympic Teams & Professional Boxing Champions
Mayer heard about Al Mitchell, who was a long-time boxing coach at the Olympic Training Center in Marquette, at Northern Michigan University. Mitchell, who has trained the likes of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, was reluctant to take Mayer on, as he had only trained men before.
Mitchell eventually agreed, but only on the grounds that Mayer enroll in college first. He trained her at the United States Olympic Education Center until the program was closed, and then trained her personally.
“The thing that makes Mikaela different is her commitment,” Mitchell told NBC. “When she walked in here, I broke her down and rebuilt her. She never believed it was too hard, and she never gave up. She has toughness that got her this far, and now it’s getting her all the way to the Olympics. It’s an incredible thing to do in that amount of time.”
During Mitchell’s years at the USOEC, he has trained nine Olympians, over 200 National Champions and has led numerous boxers into a professional boxing career, according to Box Rec. She grew so close to Mitchell and his fiancee over the years that she had Mitchell’s initials tattooed on her ride hand, according to NBC.
3. Mayer Qualified For The Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games in 2016 But Lost to Russia’s Anastasia Belyakova
When Mayer was just 20-years-old, she was already a two-time national champion, one-time national silver medalist, and ranked fourth in the country at the 132lb weight class, according to Team USA.
When she first started at the USOEC center, she had a plethora of championships already under her belt: she was the 2009 Jr. Olympic Champion, 2009 National PAL Champion, 2010 USA Boxing Bronze Medalist and was ranked third at the 178lb-plus weight class, Team USA reports.
Under Mitchell’s direction, Mayer went on to compete in the the women’s 60 kg category at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She was eliminated in the quarterfinal by Russian Anastasia Belyakova, who took a majority decision.
Later in the competition, a “handful of Olympic boxing judges were sent home after two other highly questionable victories by Russian males,” according to Los Angeles Times. However, Mayer didn’t let the loss dampen her spirits, and was determined to continue building interest in women’s boxing.
4. Mayer Was Signed By Top Rank, Who Was Impressed With Her Determination to Build Interest in Women’s Boxing
After her Olympic loss, Mayer returned home to be “right back where [she] started,” and was faced with the choice of returning to amateur boxing or to join Bellator MMA, according to the LA Times.
“I always knew I could be the exception, that I could make it work in boxing by myself. I lost sight of that in the Olympics. I lost sight of the goal I had to create a market for women’s boxing,” Mayer told the LA Times.
As Mayer headed to mixed martial arts camp in Las Vegas, her manager George Ruiz reached out to Top Rank President Todd Duboef and and arranged a meeting. DuBoef was impressed with Mayer’s commitment to boxing and offered her a contract to fight five times a year, just as the company was working out a deal with ESPN to expand the sport’s mainstream reach, the LA Times reports.
“This is what I dreamed of. I knew I didn’t want to abandon my sport,” Mayer told the LA Times. “[Top Rank] saw the vision. They were confident they could sell the vision and make it a thing.”
Mayer is currently 6-0 for her professional career, and is looking to make that a 7-0 after her fight with Edina Kiss Saturday night at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
5. Mayer Says That Fighting Live on ESPN is a “Dream Come True” & Can’t Wait to Showcase Her Skills on the “Greatest Sports Network in the World”
The Mayer vs. Kiss fight will be part of a special world championship event featuring Ray Beltran’s WBO lightweight title defense against Jose Pedraza and Isaac Dogboe’s WBO junior featherweight title defense against Hidenori Otake, according to Round by Round Boxing.
“Fighting live on ESPN is a dream come true and something I have been looking forward to since I made the decision to leave the amateur ranks and turn pro with Top Rank,” Mayer told RBR. “I gave up my dream of an Olympic gold medal to step onto a bigger stage and to help take women’s boxing to the next level. Now, after years of fighting out of the limelight, I get to showcase my skills on the greatest sports network in the world.”
Beltran-Pedraza, Dogboe-Otake, and Mayer-Kiss will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10:30 p.m. ET, with undercard action streaming live beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. on ESPN+.
Source: Heavy Sports