Mikaela Mayer has always taken a strong stance regarding the way female fighters are treated and compensated in comparison to their male counterparts.
Hearing a plea from her Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum calling for sport reform has provided a different perspective.
The reigning WBO junior lightweight titlist is set to make her first defense versus Argentina’s former two-division titlist Erica Farias (26-4, 10KOs), taking place this Saturday on ESPN from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. As is almost always the case with women’s boxing, the title fight is slated for ten two-minute rounds, whereas all men’s fights are three minutes and championship fights scheduled for ten rounds.
That part has never resonated well with the promoter and his staff who took a chance on the 2016 U.S. Olympian.
“A number of years ago, we met Mikaela. We were not into women’s boxing,” Arum explained during Thursday’s pre-fight press conference from Primrose Hall Ballroom at Virgin Hotels. “We decided we would try women’s boxing because of Mikaela, because of her talent and the maturity she showed. That experiment has worked but it’s not worked completely. That’s the reason why we haven’t done any other women’s fights besides Mikaela’s fights.
“When you look at women’s boxing, what does it lack? I’ll tell you what it lacks. It’s only two-minute rounds. Look at fights. You’ll see that the third minute of the round is often the most exciting. Women are deprived of that because they’re just getting warmed up at the end of the second minute and there’s no third minute. That’s on the commissions. We have to lobby the commissions to allow women to fight three-minute rounds. There is no earthly reason it shouldn’t be done.”
Of course, it won’t happen this weekend, and Arum questions when that day will come.
“It’s not promoters, it’s not networks. It’s the commission,” insists Arum. “I would certainly have women fight three-minute rounds. But that’s not allowed in Nevada or any other state.”
There is precedent for female boxers and their respective promoters taking the lead on the subject, including in this very town. Seniesa Estrada (20-0, 8KOs) and Marlen Esparza (8-1, 1KO)—both unbeaten at the time—settled their longtime ugly rivalry with an interim WBC flyweight title fight approved by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to take place over ten three-minute rounds. The bout remains recognized for its beautiful savagery, with Estrada claiming a technical decision win and going on to recently win the WBA strawweight title while emerging as an elite-level pound-for-pound talent.
Mayer (14-0, 5KOs) is now in a position to serve as a voice for justice on the topic. She became the first female boxer to sign an exclusive long-term contract with Top Rank straight out of the amateurs.
While the Los Angeles native—now based out of Colorado Springs—has proven to be well worth the risk, Top Rank otherwise remains frosty on the idea of further investing into that side of the sport. Arum’s point could be a valid one, although it hasn’t prevented others such as Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and Hall of Famers Lou DiBella (DiBella Entertainment) and Oscar De La Hoya (Golden Boy Promotions) from going all in with their best efforts to help narrow the gender gap in terms of equality and respect.
Still, Mayer is forever a team player. She is all ears when it comes to the advice and teachings of veteran head trainer Al Mitchell. There were no questions asked when she fought at a crowdless MGM Grand Conference in Las Vegas for her first title fight, a 10-round shutout of unbeaten WBO junior lightweight titlist Ewa Brodnicka last October.
The unbeaten 30-year-old is of the mindset that extra work should be rewarded with due compensation, as specified during her “Relentless: Mikaela Mayer” special that aired on ESPN2 earlier this week. Still, she is certainly receptive to the suggestions of her iconic promoter who boasts more than 50 years of service in the sport.
“Hearing you say that, we need to hear it more from promoters and networks that they want us to go three-minute rounds and that they see the benefit it would have for women’s boxing,” notes Mayer. “If that’s what you want, I’ll give it to you. If that’s what’s going to grow women’s boxing, I’m all for it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox