Mikaela Mayer believes the barriers she faced as a female boxer are well on their way to being broken down as she prepares to be part of a historic night for her sport.
The 32-year-old American puts her WBO and IBF super-featherweight titles on the line in the unification fight against WBC champion Alycia Baumgardner on the undercard of the hotly anticipated showdown between Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields this Saturday.
Mayer’s clash with her compatriot forms part of an all-female card at the O2 Arena, live on Sky Sports, and she is in no doubt that, while there is still work to do, it is a sign of the increased opportunities out there for women in boxing.
“It was so hard for me to try to convince young girls to go into this sport for a long time because it was so hard,” Mayer told Sky Sports. “I couldn’t confidently say ‘if you put the work in, it’ll pay off’.
“There are so many women in this sport still who have really hustled and tried and worked, and they’re still not reaping the benefits.
“There are a few of us who have and are able to make a career out of it, but it’s still really hard and we’re still trying to break down those barriers.
“But it’s changing so fast, and it makes me really excited because I want to encourage people to chase their dreams now. If they’re passionate about this sport, I feel like I can encourage them to really go for it.”
Mayer, who heads into the showdown with Baumgardner having compiled a 17-0 (5) unbeaten record since joining the professional ranks in 2017, is particularly impressed with the strides the sport has been making on this side of the Atlantic in recent years.
What is more, she is particularly pleased to be part of a card where up-and-coming female fighters will be given the opportunity to showcase their abilities alongside some of the highest-profile names in the sport.
“It’s just going to take time, but hats off to the UK – they’re really embracing it,” Mayer said. “I love coming over here, I always feel really welcome and it’s different.
“I knew from the second I heard about this card, that it was going to be iconic and it absolutely had to happen.
“I was on board with it right away and I saw how amazing it was going to be, and I also love that we’re creating a platform for the next generation of talent on the undercard to have this type of stage to showcase their skills on.
“Especially as a woman, you don’t have the luxury of going into one big fight and collecting a big pay cheque, we’ve really had to hustle in all aspects of our life building our brand and who we are.”
Mayer is eager to use her platform to help inspire the next generation too, attending an all-female sparring session at Camden Boxing Club on Sunday in the build-up to her clash in London.
The number of women and girls taking part gave her further belief she and her fellow boxers are blazing a trail for others to follow, and that there will be opportunities in the future which were not always there for her.
“For me to come here and witness this, it’s kind of proof I’ve done my job to an extent and the women of this era are doing their job,” Mayer said.
“I can confidently look these girls in the eye and tell them ‘There is a future for you in this sport’, whereas I couldn’t confidently have before.”
The biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing – Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall – is live on Sky Sports on Saturday September 10. Be part of history and buy tickets for the London showdown here.