After spending the vast majority of her career at 130 pounds or below as both a professional and amateur, Mikaela Mayer aimed about as high as she possibly could in her debut as a full-blown 147-pound fighter in taking on Natasha Jonas. 

Jonas spent 2022 establishing herself as the best 154-pounder on the planet, collecting three sanctioning body titles with dominant victories over long time stalwarts Chris Namus, Patricia Berghult and Marie-Eve Dicaire before melting back down to 147 to win a vacant title with a stoppage over former title challenger Kandi Wyatt. 

Mayer could have slowly dipped her toes in the waters at a heavier weight. With a powerful promoter in Top Rank in her corner, she certainly could have gone on a series of test run fights on notable undercards on ESPN. Instead, she specifically mentioned a series of names at 147 she was targeting: Jonas, Jessica McCaskill, Sandy Ryan, Lauren Price. Likewise, Jonas could have cherry picked a defense of some sort against lesser opposition. Instead, she outlined a series of desired opponents identical to Mayer’s.

What those decisions produced is what the women’s boxing scene has consistently delivered at the top levels over the last few years: Elite fighters choosing to face off against one another and delivering entertaining fights. Jonas had delivered Fight of the Year contender-caliber bouts against Terri Harper and Katie Taylor in the past, and likewise Mayer with Maiva Hamadouche and Alicia Baumgardner, and the two added to that list this past weekend. 

After a slow start from Mayer, perhaps attributed to Jonas’ southpaw stance but no doubt due to Jonas’ excellent timing and counters, the bout heated up gradually seemingly each and every round, in parallel with the fighters’ proximity increasing. Though Mayer had shown an ability and willingness to fight on the inside in the past, her identity as a fighter in the lighter weight classes was that of a technically sound long-range combination puncher. However, Mayer spoke openly particularly during the build-up to this fight about how much physical strength and overall comfort she felt without having to furiously cut weight, and that attitude played out in the ring. 

Mayer wanted to make it an inside fight, and she succeeded, but Jonas was more than willing to oblige. Whereas Mayer used brute force and a confidence in her body attack in particular, Jonas countered—literally—with angles and hand speed, attempting to reset Mayer’s feet as often as possible. 

In the end, the judges tallied the bout and came up with the scores of 96-94 for Jonas, 97-93 for Mayer, and 96-95 for Jonas, keeping the IBF welterweight title in the UK. Those scores were hotly debated online, anecdotally producing a consensus that the scores ought to have been flipped and Mayer declared the winner.

"It was hard work, exactly what I thought," Jonas told Sky Sports following the bout. "Two class operators and two top-class female fighters who have been well schooled, been in the Olympic cycle, been the hard route, been in through the amateurs and that elite level. I thought it was going to be tough. But I won."

It’s the second time in a major fight that Mayer has walked away feeling that her work was unjustly evaluated, after having felt she deserved the nod against Baumgardner in 2022.

"I think you could see at the end, I thought I did enough to win," Mayer said in her in-ring post fight interview. "I would have given her the first round or two, but after that I feel like I outpunched her and landed the cleaner shots. At the end of the day I think that fight is worth seeing again, like she said, one of the toughest fights she's had. I think the fans really enjoyed it. I didn't have a rematch clause on my side but I'm hoping we can get this fight done again for the fans if they want it.

As primitive a sport as boxing is, it can never be a true meritocracy for a whole host of reasons. Promotion-based privilege, amount of resources, subjective scoring, and yes, gender, all play a role in a fighter not always getting exactly what they feel they deserve. However, there is a line of thinking that suggests that the fans themselves can be the arbiter of fairness under a specific set of circumstances. Fight the best opponents available, produce entertaining fights, be an engaging personality, they say, and the opportunities and the fans themselves will show up regardless. Mayer is becoming an excellent citation for that hypothesis. Despite two high-profile losses, Mayer has maintained a significant level of popularity and interest due to the quality of her fights, and aided by her work as a color commentator and leveraging of OnlyFans to form more granular connections with fans wanting behind-the-scenes access to her training. 

As it’s been since the doors were opened to women on boxing broadcasts of significance over the last seven years or so, fighters are turning their inherent disadvantages into something positive for viewers. With fewer woman participants overall and as a result, shallower talent pools in given divisions, elite-level women have been forced to seek the best and biggest challenges available in order to receive television time and purses worth their effort. As Jonas-Mayer, Taylor-Cameron, Taylor-Serrano, Shields-Marshall and so many more over the last two years alone have shown, top-level women’s fights have a high probability of delivering commensurate action. If it keeps up, perhaps the balancing of the scales in terms of airtime, compensation, round length, whatever it may be, can become a reality rather than a hypothesis.