By Jake Donovan
Mikaela Mayer did everything she sought out to do in her battle with Yareli Larios, except knock her out.
Instead, the 2012 U.S. Olympian had to settle for a unanimous decision win in their eight-round ESPN-televised co-feature Friday evening at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota.
Scores were 80-72, 79-73, 78-74 in favor of Mayer (10-0, 4KOs) put her height and reach advantages to use in a manner not typical of the taller boxer.
The 27-year old from Los Angeles promised before the fight to force a brisk pace, looking to make things uncomfortable for Larios, a second-generation boxer whose father and trainer Oscar was a former 122-pound titlist.
Larios' fighting pedigree was evident in the opening round, going outside of her normal boxing style and working her way inside of Mayer's straight shots. The 20-year old won the 1st round on the scorecards, but at no point did panic set in for her unbeaten opponent.
"I don't have to rush in the fight and score, score score. It's more about strategy in the pros," noted Mayer, who heeded the advice of her Olympic coach and current head trainer Al Mitchell in settling down and establishing control.
Her patience reaped near immediate dividends. Mayer was persistent on taking the fight to Larios, forcing her out of her comfort zone and daring her to fight on the inside. Long jabs and right hands created openings for left hooks upstairs. which Larios took well but showed signs of slowing down as early as the midway point.
It was picked up by her father/trainer, who insisted by round five that she already needed a knockout to win. Larios did her best to respond, catching Mayer with a left hook upstairs but didn't as much as force the rising super featherweight contender to break stride.
Larios looked like a beaten fighter after a physically imposing round seven, but bravely came out to force Mayer to work in the eighth and final round. Mayer obliged, forcing her foe into a corner and working on the inside while disallowing Larios the opportunity to land a bailout home run shot.
Mayer improves to 10-0 (4KOs), the win kicking off a 2019 campaign which she hopes will include a shot at a 130-pound title.
Larios falls to 13-2-1 (3KOs) with the loss. She is now 1-2-1 in her last four starts, with Friday's loss marking her first fight outside of her native Mexico.
The 10-round super featherweight attraction served as the chief support to Rob Brant's first defense of his middleweight title versus unbeaten Khasan Baysangurov.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox