Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner can’t get in the ring soon enough.
The best two junior lightweights in the world had to be physically retrained for the third time in as many days, both exchanging words and light shoves after making weight for their unified championship clash. Both boxers weighed 129.3 pounds for their lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO junior lightweight championship, which takes place Saturday evening at The O2 in London.
The five-week delay from the postponement of the September 10 show due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II did not affect either boxer, though it has clearly intensified their rivalry. Mayer and Baumgardner had to be separated during a pre-fight interview on Sky Sports on Wednesday and again during Thursday’s pre-fight press conference.
The third time was hardly the charm. Baumgardner shifted her body weight in Mayer's direction, prompting on-site security to separate the two while on stage during their post weigh-in staredown Friday afternoon in London. Mayer launched a fully extended leg kick before the two were sent in opposite directions.
“She started to push me back,” Mayer explained of the latest fracas. “I didn’t have any arms because I (am carrying) three belts. So, I had to use my legs. I feel great. All this talk of me struggling to make weight is a reflection of this girl. She’s struggling. She’s spending too much time in the weight room.”
Mayer (17-0, 5KOs) attempts her fourth overall IBF title defense and second as the unified IBF/WBO champ. She claimed the WBO belt in a ten-round virtual shutout of unbeaten Ewa Brodnicka in October 2020, then added the IBF belt after outlasting France’s Maiva Hamadouche in their hellacious ten-round battle last November 5.
Both title wins took place in Las Vegas for Mayer, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Woodland Hills, California who now lives and trains in Colorado Springs, California. She is coming off a ten-round shutout of former featherweight titlist Jennifer Han on April 9 in Costa Mesa, California.
Baumgardner (12-1, 7KOs) makes the second defense of the WBC title she violently annexed in a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten champ Terri Harper last November 13 on the road in Sheffield, England. The 28-year-old from the greater Detroit area now fights in the UK for the third straight time, coming off a ten-round points win over former unified featherweight titlist Edith Soledad Matthysse on April 16 in Manchester.
The expectation is return home as a multi-belt and lineal champion.
“I’m here to be unified champion of the world,” vowed Baumgardner. “There’s no other option in my head. To get her out of there, to have the referee stop it, Coach Al (Mitchell) throw in the towel. But this girl gotta go.”
The intense rivalry between Mayer and Baumgardner has been the talk of the town, even as the evening’s co-feature. Headlining the show is a grudge match with ten years of history between Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall.
Both boxers weighed 159.3 pounds for their undisputed middleweight championship.
Shields (12-0, 2KOs) has quickly established herself as among the most accomplished female fighters in boxing history. The two-time Olympic Gold medalist (2012 London, 2016 Rio) from Flint, Michigan is already a three-division world champion in less than six years as a pro, including undisputed championship reigns at middleweight and junior middleweight.
Her stranglehold on the middleweight division was lightened when she let go of the WBO title to briefly pursue a run at junior middleweight. The development allowed Marshall (12-0, 10KOs) to enter the title picture, winning the vacant belt in an October 2020 seventh-round knockout of Hannah Rankin—whom Shields previously defeated but has since befriended.
Saturday will mark the fourth attempted title defense for Marshall, a 31-year-old knockout artist from Hartlepool, County Durham. It will also determine whether she truly has Shields’ number, as she is the only one to ever beat the American superstar in her boxing lifetime. It came during the preliminary round of the 2012 World Amateur Championships, with Marshall taking a points win on the road to claiming top honors in the tournament.
Both went on to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, with Shields easily claiming Gold. It came without the opportunity to avenge her defeat, as Marshall exited in the quarterfinal round of competition as well as during 2016 Rio where Shields went on to repeat.
Both bouts will air live on ESPN+ in the U.S. (2:30 p.m. ET) and Sky Sports in the U.K., topping an all-female show.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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