Mayer: I think I’m Jonas’s toughest fight

“We are both at that time in our career where we want the big fights,” said Mikaela Mayer, ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash with world welterweight champion Natasha Jonas.

“You take big fights and there’s a lot that comes with that. There’s the pressure that comes, the risk, but there’s also a lot of reward, especially for the women. We want the big paydays, we want the limelight, we want the networks and the promoters and the fans to be paying attention, and in order to get that type of respect, we have to put on big fights that people want to see. We can’t just coast through, hang on to our belt and fight whoever. We’re at the stage in our career where we take as many big fights as possible and do what we can.”

Jonas, who has the IBF belt, chose Mayer as a voluntary defence. Mayer is 19-1 with five stoppage wins. She has been in England several days ahead of the fight in Jonas’s hometown, Liverpool, having spent her previous weeks training in Las Vegas.

“I’ve got a place in Vegas and I’ve been doing my camps there,” Mayer said. “It has everything I need there, DLX [gym], you have the UFC PCI, my nutritionists are there, so it’s just a one-stop shop for everything. There’s a lot going on there, lots of gyms, lots of training partners, it’s a fun place to train, but at the same time you have the focus of the whole team and everything you need there to keep you grounded but a little bit of action and life. I was coming from Colorado, so it got a little slow there, people stopped doing their camps there, everyone’s migrated to Vegas.”

Jonas will have the crowd behind her on Saturday, but Mayer is boxing in the UK for her fourth consecutive bout. Both are former Olympians who have built their brands well as professionals.

“She’s a great fighter,” admitted Mayer. “In this generation of women’s fighting, we’ve both done a lot for the sport, [we have] huge amateur pedigrees. On paper, we both have a ton of experience, so I think it’s a perfect match-up. This is the type of fight that boxing needs to see. If you look at the odds, they’re not a million miles apart. It’s a close fight, so everyone has their favourite but on paper it’s close. Anytime you get a fighter who comes from the amateurs and is an Olympian and has spent so much time in the amateurs you’re going to have a really technically-skilled fighter. So she’s faced a million different styles, she’s had a handful of fights just like me, we’ve had to adjust and adapt to different styles all the time and that’s a huge advantage, she knows how to do that. She’s a good boxer, good mover, good footwork, she’s been in a 10-round fight, so it’s going to be a strategic fight for me. It’s going to be who has the better gameplan and who is the better fighter that night.”

This week, Jonas has talked about how she felt the pressure fall off her shoulders when she became a world champion and fulfilled her potential. She has felt a freedom to fight and express herself, since, but Mayer thinks the pressure is all on Jonas this weekend.

“There’s always pressure, the pressure just sort of changes,” explained the American veteran. “There’s still a lot of pressure as the champion, because everyone’s coming for you. Different pressure when you’re not champion because you want to get there and you have people who believe in you and supported you to get there, so there’s that pressure. But once you’re there, it doesn’t stop. It gets even tougher if you think about it. I think I’m her toughest fight since she’s become champion. Definitely the most experienced. The girls she’s fought at the heavier weights, they don’t have the pedigree that I have, so I think I’m her toughest fight.”

Mayer is 33-years-old and made her debut in 2017. By no means does she see Jonas as the end goal of her career. She wants to move on. If Mayer wins, Jonas has a rematch clause, but Mayer is looking far beyond a two-fight rivalry.

“I definitely still have years left in me,” she said, discussing how long she might fight on for. “I think a lot of us women are going later, I think one [reason is] because we don’t have as many miles on us. You have a lot of young guys who have been boxing since they were six-years-old, had a few hundred amateur fights, they’re 20-0 by the time they’re 23, 24, and that just hasn’t been the case for us women. We haven’t had that opportunity. We’re a little older, we have a little less miles on us so we can go longer. We don’t peak until a little bit later, and I’m only 33-years-old. I didn’t start boxing until I was 18. I still have plenty to go.”