New York City’s First Look at Olympian Mikaela Mayer on Saturday
By David A. Avila
Finding those hidden nuggets usually come when least expected.
Mikaela Mayer was never the boxer groomed from childhood nor was she the favorite to represent her country in the Olympics. And when a major boxing promotion company signed her they expected simply a fan friendly boxer.
So far, what Top Rank has received is a female prizefighter who just might bust the glass ceiling to smithereens.
Mayer (2-0, 2 Kos) faces veteran Nydia Feliciano (9-8-3) at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City. The Top Rank fight card will be shown on ESPN but Mayer’s fight will be streamed on the ESPN3 app.
“This is my first time fighting in New York City. New York is the Mecca of boxing and the people here are true die hard boxing fans. I know they’re going to appreciate the talent on this card and it makes me eager to put on a good show,” said Mayer, 27.
Though Mayer’s fight will not be televised but streamed, it’s a slight taken in stride by the Southern Californian who is willing to earn her way to the top. After all, before signing with the Las Vegas-based boxing company Mayer thought she was headed to MMA.
“I was literally days or maybe a week from signing a contract with Bellator and transitioning to MMA. I was really close. My manager said let’s wait and talk to some promoters,” Mayer told ThePrizefighters.com back in October.
Now the 5’10” in height Mayer is ready to engage against Feliciano who is much better than her record indicates. Throughout her career the Bronx native has fought contenders and champions and earned a draw against current IBF featherweight champion Jennifer Han.
Feliciano is no slouch says one world champion who fought her years ago.
“I predict a good effort from Nydia as usual, but Mikaela is way too big and skilled to not go home with the victory,” said Amanda Serrano the five-division world champion from Brooklyn who has a win over Feliciano. “Mikaela might go the distance on this one, Nydia can box.”
Mayer knows that Feliciano is much better than her previous opponents.
“Nydia definitely has some experience as a pro and is a good step up from my last two opponents; which is what we wanted,” said Mayer. “Like I said, Coach Al (Mitchell) is such a strategist and is big on having game plans when heading into fights. We’ve worked on specific things for Nydia and we’re confident that they will work.”
So far two opponents facing Mayer were sent to defeat by crushing knockouts. While most former amateur stars find it difficult to change from slap happy combinations to forceful punching, the slender Californian has made the transition easily.
“My training techniques have definitely changed since I’ve turned pro and rightfully so. The amateurs taught me a ton and don’t get me wrong, being able to compete at the highest amateur level requires a ton of skill but it’s definitely different from the pros,” said Mayer. “Obviously I’ve been working on sitting on my punches more and instead of thinking 1-2-3-4-5! I’ve had to train my mind to settle down and pick my shots a little more.”
“I’ve also been working a lot more on body work. In the amateurs you want to ‘score’ and the best way to do that is from the outside where judges can clearly see you landing shots and not getting hit. You have pillowy gloves and headgear so I didn’t so much think of hurting my opponent or landing power shots. I thought of speed, fast combos, and get out of the way.”
It’s a big moment for Mayer who despite fighting in international competition as an amateur including the Rio Olympics, has never experienced the attention given to pro boxing. It’s also her first time fighting in New York City.
“I realized when getting ready for New York City how extremely different packing for a pro fight in the Big Apple is from packing for an amateur tournament in Bulgaria,” said Mayer chuckling. “The media workout, press conference, live weigh in, fight night etc. all requires so much more thought and preparation now! But it’s fun and I enjoy the process of fight week. We boxers work so hard during camp that it feels good to know people are watching and excited about seeing us perform.”
The attention given to boxers as a pro has excited Mayer who was accustomed to empty arenas and scant media coverage.
“Yes the Olympics is obviously the biggest stage in the world but that only happens once every four years. There’s a lot of work that goes in between those years but nobody sees it,” Mayer said.
A surprising number of female Olympians have entered the pro boxing world and seem to be making a startling impact. Television coverage and media streaming now have their cameras pointed toward female prizefighting. This weekend two former amateur stars are fighting on the same day with Mayer in New York while Sulem Urbina fights in Las Vegas. It’s a significant difference from decades of indifference suffered by female boxing.
But the female prizefighters are swelling up like a tidal wave filled with a talent pool provided by the Olympics and the pros like Serrano. Their day is coming.
“I now have a chance to make a bigger impact and help put women’s boxing on the map. Combat sports are so popular right now,” said Mayer. “There’s no reason we can’t do what Ronda Rousey did for women’s MMA. I just needed a platform and a promoter to back me.”
Mayer’s in town.