No matter how far she elevates her own career, Mikaela Mayer will never stop beating the drum for gender equality in boxing.
Great strides have been made in recent years, with top-level female boxing shown more than ever. Mayer will appear in one of three major title fights on U.S. soil this Saturday, as she defends her WBO junior lightweight title versus Argentina’s Erica Farias. The bout airs live on ESPN from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, paired up with unbeaten three-division and reigning WBA/IBF bantamweight titlist Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17KOs) in a mandatory title defense.
Inoue’s championship bout versus Philippines’ Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20KOs) is scheduled for 12 three-minute rounds, while Mayer (14-0, 5KOs) and Farias (26-4, 10KOs) will take place over 10 rounds at two-minutes apiece, the standard distance for women’s title fights. While there has come demand for the same standards to be applied to both sides of the sport, there comes a valid counterpoint.
“Here’s my thing—why are we in a rush to do what the men do if they’re not going to give us fair treatment,” Mayer noted during a recent installment of Relentless: Mikaela Mayer which airs Tuesday evening on ESPN2. “It’s not like it goes hand in hand. If we go twelve three-minute rounds, it’s not like they’re going to up our pay. They’re not going to automatically sign more women and put us on networks. I’m not going to do more until they do more.
“Until they start treating us like the men, why are we going to do what they do?”
Talent-wise, Mayer is part of an elite wave of female boxers who have proven just as worthy of airtime as any of their male counterparts. The unbeaten 30-year-old from Colorado Springs by way of Los Angeles was a late starter to the sport but still carved out a terrific amateur career topped by her appearing in the 2016 Rio Olympics as a lightweight.
Less than a year later came her becoming the first female fighter to sign an exclusive promotional contract with Top Rank, claiming her first major championship after just three years as a pro. That moment came in her last fight, scoring a 10-round shutout of unbeaten Ewa Brodnika last Halloween on ESPN+ from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The bout came three months after she made network history with her July 14 win over Helen Joseph marking the first ever female bout to headline on ESPN’s flagship station.
It came in continuation of an era that has seen Olympic Gold medalists Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor forever change the conversation, already emerging as among the best female boxers of all time as they continue to rack up accolades. Still, the ability to break down barriers remains a challenge for a fighter like Shields, who is also competing in MMA in order to expand her brand beyond a sport where her supreme talents far exceeds the amount of credit and respect the industry is willing to give back in return.
“There is definitely still a lot of work to be done when it comes to equality in boxing between men and women,” insists Mayer. “You have to look back to the history of the sport. Women were just allowed into the Olympics for the first time in 2012. The Olympics have been around for a long time. So, the men have had these years and years and years to develop and compete at the highest level.
“Now you see women coming into the pros saying, ‘I’m a multi-time champion, I’m an Olympian, I’m an Olympic Gold medalist.’ So, now there’s no denying us. The talent pool is deep, we’re coming. They’re gonna have to give us the respect that we deserve.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox