Mikaela Mayer talks Jennifer Han, representing Top Rank, three-minute rounds, and Tayor-Serrano
One of the top fighters in the world today competes for Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing. Mikaela Mayer, the WBO, IBF, and The Ring junior-lightweight champion, has become a force to be reckoned with ever since she made her pro debut in 2017.
A member of the 2016 Olympics, a multiple-time USA Boxing National Champion, and a National Golden Gloves winner, Mayer, from Los Angeles California, is ready to unify the division. First, she must get through Jennifer Han on April 9. Fighting inside the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California, Mayer will headline the card, something that she is not unfamiliar with while with Top Rank.
Recently, Mayer re-signed with Top Rank on a multi-year deal. She will continue to represent Top Rank for years to come.
“Mikaela has accomplished so much since making her professional debut in 2017, and she has only scratched the surface,” Arum said in a release. “She is a role model for young women in the sport and a tremendous talent. I believe she is well on her way to becoming boxing’s pound-for-pound queen, and she will be involved in the sport’s biggest events for years to come.”
Training with coach Al Mitchell, Mayer’s path to superstardom is reaching an apex point. Looking to become a role model for the younger generation of female fighters, Mayer is ready to do whatever it takes to make a statement on Saturday.
She begins the month of April with a fight, while Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano will end it inside Madison Square Garden in a mega clash.
The Sporting News spoke to Mayer before her fight against Han. Mayer discussed her next challenger and expectations from her as one of Top Rank’s prized fighters. She also provided her thoughts on the Taylor vs. Serrano matchup.
Sporting News: You’re fighting in California for the first time since 2018. How does it feel to be back and perform in front of family and friends?
Mikaela Mayer: It feels good. I left California when I was 19 years old. I’ve come back here and there, but I really left at 19 with this dream. This was before they were announcing women in the Olympics. I went out with this dream, accomplished it, and then some. It is a great feeling to be back after having done all that. Not many people have gotten to see me live. That is especially true after traveling all these years.
SN: When you started, would your rookie self believe what she’s seeing right now? Mikaela Mayer, world champion and one of the top fighters today?
MM: I was literally thinking about that earlier. People keep asking me that. I didn’t know exactly what my success was going to look like. That’s because I was manifesting and figuring it out as I was going along. I thought I was going to go to multiple Olympics. I didn’t necessarily know if I was going to go pro because there was no market for women in boxing back then. It was like, what was I thinking? I knew I was going to be successful. Somehow, someway, I knew I was going to do it.
SN: Since 2018, you have been known as a world-beater, dominating against some of the top fighters from all over. That includes competitors like Helen Joseph and Ewa Brodnicka. This time, you face a local in Jennifer Han. Is there anything you are doing differently compared to your previous fights?
MM: In all of our training camps, we always try and get better. We learn to break down our opponent and pick out a few things we really want to master. We have a routine that we do for these camps. It has worked for us for 16 pro fights. We stick to that, but we alter a few things. We are not the team where we say, “I’m just going to do what I do, and we’ll beat them if we stick to what we do best.” No. We dissect our opponent. We expect to face the best version of them. Jennifer Han is no exception. She’s been around for a long time and just went ten rounds with Katie Taylor. Han is no pushover.
SN: You are with Top Rank, an organization that has invested a lot into you. Is there any pressure when it comes to being the lead female fighter for the organization?
MM: There’s always been pressure. Even after I signed on to Top Rank, I thought that I still have to prove myself to them. To prove I’m a worthy investment. I was one of the only females they had on their roster and was showcased on ESPN. I felt a duty, not just to represent myself, but to prove to the whole boxing world that I belonged on this stage. I feel like the pressure has changed a little bit. I feel like I have proven myself, I’m a world champion now. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is easier. If anything, there’s much more on the line now. There is a lot more to lose now. Every fight from here on out will get bigger and bigger. It comes with the territory. If we want to grow women in the sport and build a blueprint, someone has to do it.
It’s privileged pressure. It is a privilege to be in the position I am in.
SN: Your last fight was with Maiva Hamadouche, considered a Fight of the Year candidate. What did you take away from that fight?
MM: Hamadouche had a very particular style. We didn’t just start training for that style. If you look back at some of my earlier pro fights, I kind of got criticized a little bit for not using my height and reach. People were asking me why I wasn’t going on the inside and going for the body instead. I did that because I was practicing. I already knew how to box on the outside. Coach Al had me training that way. He knew one day someone was going get me on the inside. I was going to have to learn how to deal with that. He couldn’t teach me right then and there. It takes time, years to learn that style. Coach Al wanted me to be well-rounded, versatile, and multi-dimensional. He was preparing me for someone like Hamadouche. That’s how I pulled off that win in that way.
I feel like I’m one of the most versatile fighters out there. I learned a lot about myself in that fight. I don’t think Han will be anything similar to that, but that’s boxing. This is the sweet science. You don’t fight everybody the same. I don’t believe that.
SN: You are one of the most intelligent minds in boxing. What separates you from the rest of the pack?
MM: Number one is coaching. One of the hardest things in the world is to find a solid team. Everyone on my team is five stars. I have to credit myself for that because I made decisions and moves to create this team. I went through a couple of coaches. When I found the right people, I stuck with them. Everyone on my team works so well together, thanks to Coach Al. He’s the one who crafted these hands. He taught me everything I know. As a female, especially in this era, it is important to show proper technique and strategy. That’s going to close the gap. Coach Al, whenever I step in the ring, he says it’s not always about winning. You have to look good. That’s why he is so hard on me, but it is paying off.
SN: There has been plenty of debate over the years regarding two vs. three-minute rounds in women’s boxing. What are your thoughts on the topic? What can be done to make three-minute rounds a reality?
MM: I do think we should do three-minute rounds. It is the next step. The talent pool and the level of skill are up there enough now that women should be granted three-minute rounds. It will separate the good from the great and allow us to showcase more of our skills. More knockouts and more excitement can come from it. I feel like I would have ended a lot more fights if I was given a little more time.
When our fights are over, they (men’s fights) are halfway through. Think about how fights can change in the second half. That’s when your discipline and conditioning sets in. I think women deserve that chance. What does it take? All of the governing bodies need to get on the same page. It just can’t be, “Hey girl, let’s make a statement, and let’s go three-minute rounds for this fight.” No. We deserve to have it equal across the board, to be compensated properly for our work. We need everyone to be on the same page. That is up to the governing bodies.
SN: Later this month (April 30), Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano face off in a historic matchup. What are your thoughts on the fight, and who do you think will walk out of Madison Square Garden the winner?
MM: It is a great fight, I think they are both great fighters. They have done a ton for the sport and for the growth of women in the sport. They have different backgrounds: Serrano has been a sound pro most of her career, and Katie Taylor came up in the amateurs. Their styles show their backgrounds. I do think it will go to a decision. I don’t know who will win, but it will be close. Taylor might take the first half because she has a very high punch count and speed. Her tricky amateur style can throw someone off like a pro. Serrano is going to come on more towards the end. She’s going to find her rhythm.
We’ll have to see who will have the better moments.