Mikaela Mayer was the last among the four reigning junior lightweights to collect her title, though the most vocal in pushing for unification bouts.
Such efforts allowed the unbeaten WBO junior lightweight titlist to land such an opportunity, coming this weekend versus long-reigning IBF titlist Maiva Hamadouche (22-1, 18KOs). The two-belt clash takes place this Friday on ESPN+ from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The winner will garner strong consideration as the best junior lightweight in the world—a specific goal set out by Mayer upon turning pro in 2017.
“Winning this fight and performing well will solidify me as the top player in this division,” Mayer insisted during the final pre-fight press conference on site Thursday afternoon. “I want to be undisputed champion by this time next year.
“One step at a time. Hamadouche this Friday, then either (WBC/IBO titlist Terri) Harper or (WBA titlist Hyun Mi) Choi next.”
Mayer (15-0, 5KOs) represented the United States in the 2016 Rio Olympics before beginning her pro career the following August. By that point, Hamadouche was nearly one full year into her current five-year title reign.
Paris’ Hamadouche is second only to Hyun Mi Choi (19-0-1, 5KOs) among the division’s longest-reigning titlists. Sheffield’s Harper (11-0-1, 6KOs) claimed her WBC belt in February 2020, just prior to the pandemic and in a fight Mayer felt she deserved as the number-one contender for the title.
Mayer’s coronation would come last October, soundly outpointing undefeated Ewa Brodnicka to wrest the WBO crown. From that moment onward, she has all but dared Eddie Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing who promotes Harper, Choi and Hamadouche—to put any of the company’s champions in the ring with her.
Mayer has since defended the belt in a ten-round decision over Erica Farias this past June, at the same venue where Friday’s title unification clash will take place. The mission was the same, though the next task was already known as the teams for Mayer—including career-long manager George Ruiz—and Hamadouche were already hard at work at securing this fight, with the understanding that Hamadouche would firs represent France in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics this past summer.
As will be the case with just about anyone she faces at this level, Mayer understands the pro and championship experience heavily in her opponent’s favor. Hamadouche also boasts a (perceived) power advantage as well, having stopped her last four opponents and only going to the scorecards in five of her 23 pro bouts.
Mayer doesn’t see any of that as obstacles to overcome. In fact, in her view it calls into question why Mayer has to be the one to force the division’s best to meet while her predecessors chose to run parallel of one another.
“My mindset is that I am here to challenge myself to the best of my ability throughout my career,” notes Mayer. “She has a great record, she’s been champ for, what, six years now. But in my mind, six years and not pressing to unify. That’s not something I wanted for my career. That’s not the goal I had for this division, not the vision that I had for myself and for women’s boxing.
“I want the best fights possible. I had to go out there and do what I had to do to make this fight happen. It is what it is. I have plenty of experience as well.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox