Mikaela Mayer 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole interviews IBF-WBO super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer ahead of her unification fight Saturday versus WBC champion Alycia Baumgardner.

Video transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to "Yahoo Sports." On Saturday, September 10th in London, England, on ESPN Plus here in the United States could be the biggest women's boxing show of all time. And one of the participants on that card joins me now. The WBO-IBF super featherweight champion, Mikaela Mayer. Mikaela, how are you, my friend?

MIKAELA MAYER: I'm doing well. You forgot the Ring Magazine. Everyone forgets that one. Don't forget that belt.

KEVIN IOLE: We go by those crazy sanctioning body ones. Yeah. So you're going to be fighting Alycia Baumgardner in a very interesting card. She's got the WBC title. Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields will fight in the main event. Now let me ask you this first.

Good or bad that both of these fights are on the same card? Because I feel like your fight card could have been in a main event on ESPN in the United States, your fight in particular. So good or bad having all these great women fight on the same card?

MIKAELA MAYER: Good. I love it. I love it. I chose to be on this card. Like, it was definitely brought to my attention. And I was asked, would you be open to that? And I immediately said, yes. I thought it was awesome.

I thought it was unique. I thought it was different. I thought it would be iconic. I think it's something that cards don't do, promoters don't do.

You know, Claressa Shields, my Olympic sister. So obviously, I thought it would be badass for us to fight as a pro on the-- as pros together, especially with the magnitude of both of these fights. I also secretly hope that they would make it an all-female card, which they did. So it's just become a very iconic event.

And I think that it's awesome for the fans to have a one-stop shop for these two legendary fights. Because if we didn't do this, we would have been like back-to-back weekends. And I feel like it just would have split us. It would have split the fans. And not everyone would have been able to enjoy it, both those fights.

KEVIN IOLE: And one other question about that. I know Top Rank signed Seniesa Estrada recently. So she became the second fighter, women's fighter, under contract with Top Rank. And it kind of hit me funny. I was glad they signed her, but you have inarguably the top promoter in boxing.

For the longest time, only had one woman on the roster, right? How do you grow the sport? Don't you have to have more? So don't you have to talk Todd DuBoef and Bob Arum into, hey, bringing more women in there. And so having-- creating a talent pool that you can have recognizable faces and names more than just yourself and Seniesa.

MIKAELA MAYER: Yeah, I mean, when Top Rank first signed me, I definitely had it in my mind that I would still have to sort of prove to them that I was, like, a worthy sign. Because they weren't in the market for women's boxing. And I was sort of like a risk, right?

I was just kind of a guinea pig. And so my goal was to prove to them that not only was I worthy, but women's boxing is here to stay. And I wanted them for years to sign another female. It took a little bit longer than I had hoped and I had expected, but I'm glad they finally did.

I think Seniesa is a great sign. She's an awesome, down to Earth person. But it just shows you that the market in America is just tough. It's just really, really tough. I'm not a promoter, so I can't go into details about that. But I hope that I've sort of done my job to an extent.

I feel like maybe I've done my job and proven to them, in some way, that there is a market here for women's boxing. And hopefully Seniesa isn't their last sign. I'm hoping that we're going to get the-- start picking things up now.

It's an evolution, right? It's constantly growing. It's constantly developing. I think we can, like, kind of look back in history and think the biggest thing that they did was they allowed women to finally compete at the Olympics. And it allowed women to compete at the highest level, just like the men. And when you're competing at the highest level, the skill, the skill develops, right?

And the talent pool knowledge is so deep. Women are starting at such a younger age. So naturally there's that. I don't think we're ever going to disappear. Like, we're absolutely here to stay. You've got young girls that are just kicking ass, right? And the skill level is so much higher than it was.

But that, and promoters now. So it is up to the promoters now and it is up to the media, because the media controls the narrative, right? Not just promoters, but the media in general, media controls the narrative. And women have-- are able now to come to the pros and these promoters and say, look, I'm a multiple time national champion. I'm a world medalist. I'm an Olympian. I'm an Olympic gold medallist. And that's never been the case in history.

So now that we're able to do that, and we have that, and we have women with these types of resumes, I just feel like it's-- we're undeniable. It's going to happen. It is taking a little bit of time, especially in places like America. It's a little easier over here. I know Matchroom has a stable of women. But I feel like we're on the right path.

KEVIN IOLE: Let's talk about Alycia Baumgardner. She is 12-1 with 7 knockouts. You are 17-0. She won the title by beating Terri Harper in really kind of a scary knockout in England last year. But here's what I want to ask you about because as I'm looking at her record, you know, you're 17-0. And she fought Edith Matthysse at her last fight, 17-11.

But you go back, and before Terri Harper, she was not fighting top competition. You know, I'm just looking at records, 5-2, 11-12, 3-4, 9-17. So do you feel like she has been at that level where she's not going to be surprised by your talent, given the records of the opponent she's been facing in the last couple of years?

MIKAELA MAYER: You hit it right on the nose. I mean, I've said this. That she has not been tested. She has not been tested. Now she did her thing against Terri Harper. Great for her.

I always thought-- never thought Terri Harper was that good anyways. I always told everyone that I'm levels above Terri Harper. I also don't think that was the best Terri Harper that night, but whatever. She did her thing against Terri. You can't take that away from her.

But she has not been tested the way I have. She has not gone up against styles, and former world champions, and world champions the way that I have. And that's why I say that I feel like I'm levels above her. Top Rank has done a great job at moving me and giving me different styles and opponents over the last 17 fights. And I'm ready for this fight.

I don't know if she's ready for this fight. Once she's taken out of her comfort zone and she's taking it to deep waters that I'm going to take her into, we'll see. We'll see if she can swim, honestly. I'm definitely going to be her toughest test to date.

And taking-- commenting on her record. We tried to get this fight with her a couple of fights ago, Right we tried to get this done. And the Top Rank-- or the Nevada Athletic Commission wouldn't approve her because of her opponent.


MIKAELA MAYER: Yeah. She agreed to the fight, and then Nevada said, no. Look at her opponent. She's not worthy of a title fight. And then she ended up getting one with Terri Harper in Matchroom, so.

KEVIN IOLE: She has some pop in her hands when you watch her clips on YouTube. And you know, obviously, and just what she did to Terri Harper. I mean, I've never really seen anything like that where she kind of froze her after hitting her with that right hand. But I wonder, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with somebody that you know has the potential, if she hits you on the chin, to hurt you? Does that change the calculus on how you fight?

MIKAELA MAYER: No. It doesn't. Now listen, if I was afraid of getting hits, I would not be in boxing, right? I just wouldn't. I would have stopped showing up a long time ago.

So that definitely doesn't change. In my opinion, she needs to be set. She needs to be perfectly set to really sit and land the right hand. And if you look at my style, I don't let my opponents get set.


MIKAELA MAYER: I stay behind my jab. I keep moving forward. I pressure them.

And so I plan on taking her out of her comfort zone. And I look at her fight with Matthysse, she has to land that right hand perfectly, and she did well. But she doesn't have that second or third gear like I have. And she showed that against her fight with Matthysse because Matthysse, she definitely should have taken Matthysse out of there.

But she couldn't land that perfectly clean right hand and she didn't know how to switch into that third or fourth gear, press her, get her up against the ropes, get rugged, get dirty, and get her out of there. And that-- and that's where I'm good at, so. Yeah, so I said, if she doesn't land that right hand the first couple of rounds and I get her number, she's done for.

KEVIN IOLE: I wonder if you would agree with this contention. You, obviously, are a good boxer, but your volume is there, right? And I think sometimes you wear these girls down where like, they get to the second half of the fight and conditioning starts to become an issue. And you're able to kind of potshot them as you go down and start landing these big things. And it seems like maybe the plan, your plan you have, you go out there with a lot of volume and you start putting your hands on these women in the early stages of the fight, and it pays a lot of dividends later.

MIKAELA MAYER: Yeah, exactly. I personally believe that three-minute rounds would absolutely benefit me, because I feel like I'm always this close to getting my opponents out of there, because I do, I wear them down. I break them down. I have an engine, you know.

I come from that amateur pedigree where we have a high punch count and high volume. And I've been able to take that into the pros. You know, I'm training in altitude, training in Colorado, and pushing myself hard. And so I definitely think that I'm much more well conditioned than most of my opponents. And I absolutely plan on doing the same thing to Baumgardner. So we'll see if she can handle that pressure.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, you saying that just popped something in my mind and the two minute rounds. I wonder if that might not be a reason why the popularity of women's boxing hasn't taken off. And for this reason. You mentioned you're just getting somebody hurt, the bell rings, and they get the chance to recover. You have 5 knockouts in 17 fights.

Like, do you feel like if there were more knockouts in women's boxing, if you had that extra time, that people would all of a sudden start saying, you know? Because I think a lot of the narrative is now, well, they can't punch, and which I know is not true. But the fact, when they don't see the knockouts on the record, do you think that negatively impacts their perception of what's going on in the ring?

MIKAELA MAYER: I think it might be a factor. But I think that what the three minute rounds are going to do is just going to elevate women in the sport in general, and here's why. Because boxing is the sweet science, right? It's strategy. But a lot of that strategy and science is being-- we're not able to tap into it.

We're not able to develop, and break down our opponent, and work that strategy, because we have half the time to get it done. You know what I mean? So I think if we're to give that more time, you're going to see more skill. You're going to see what the skill level in the women kind of rise because we're going to be behind our jab more, setting up punches more, really being more strategic, which I want to be that way.

But I also know that I have 20 minutes to get these girls out of there. So I have to let my hands go in flurries. And I don't think it's that I'm not strong. I just think that sometimes I rush my punches. And I'm rushed to, like, throw all these combinations. And so my style has sort of been like, not a one-punch knockout artist, but a break you down over time.


MIKAELA MAYER: So yeah. But I think it'll definitely up the skill level if they give us more time to be strategic.

KEVIN IOLE: Before I let you go, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about Claressa and her fight against Savannah Marshal. Claressa Shields, of course, was your teammate at the 2016 Olympics when she became the second-time gold medal winner. So that was an amazing feat for her that she did.

And she's gone on to great heights. Savannah Marshall is a tough fight. I looked at the odds before I talked to you today, and it's an pick-em fight, right? And I think you hear Claressa call herself the GWOAT, the Greatest Woman Of All Time.

Here, she's not a huge favor. She's just on even terms. How do you see that fight playing on? And what does Claressa have to do to win, in your opinion?

MIKAELA MAYER: I find it funny that me and Claressa are on the same card with kind of like, with these opponents that we sort of have this same narrative with these opponents, right? Because me and Claressa I think are similar in a way where we have very high punch count, more aggressive. And Savannah and Baumgardner are supposedly these like big punchers.

And so it's like this stylistic thing that I think is really intriguing to the fans. But I think just like me, I feel like in order for Baumgardner to get set, in order for Savannah to really land those big punches, they have to be set. And the intensity that me and Claressa bring to the ring, and our amateur pedigree, and the aggressiveness, I don't think it's going to allow them to get set. And they're going to get behind. They're going to get behind and they're going to find themselves in a dogfight that they're not used to.

KEVIN IOLE: I should have mentioned this when I asked you that question. Peter Fury, he used to train Tyson. He made a comment the other day where he said that Savannah Marshall was the hardest hitting women's boxer he had ever seen. And now I would personally tell Peter, you have not seen Ann Wolfe ever fight, if you say that, right?

But he made that comment, but you're right. You know, she is more of a set the feet and then throw that big right hand. What do you think it means for women's boxing if Claressa is able to do this, right? Because she's been the big name, right?

And she's won undisputed titles throughout and how many championships she won, three weight classes and two undisputed. I mean, it's incredible. If she wins, how much of a lift just does that give, you think, because now we're going to have this superstar on our hands?

MIKAELA MAYER: I mean, when it comes to, like, the media and whatever the world thinks, I don't know. I feel like it's just so hard. We keep accomplishing all these great things and we still only get so much of a pat on the back. But I think that it's going to shut a lot of people up.

I mean, it's really, really going to solidify her legacy, I think, because-- and only because she's going into this fight with people-- like, look at the odds. It's even.

And some people I think are going for Savannah, or it's like fluctuating, right? So for her to sort of go into this fight with all this negativity and all these people saying these negative things about her, and for her to be able to come out and rise to the top of it, this is definitely going to solidify what she's accomplished as a boxer. Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: I know what you're going to solidify if you win this title next week. It's going to be amazing. Mikaela Mayer, good luck to you in the fight with Alycia Baumgardner. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you.

MIKAELA MAYER: Thank you. Good talking to you.

KEVIN IOLE: See you soon.