For the second time within one week, a women’s unification fight headlined a major boxing card when Mikaela Mayer retained her WBO world super-featherweight crown, took possession of the IBF belt, and became the maiden Ring magazine 130-pound titleholder by outslugging Maiva Hamadouche this past Friday night in Las Vegas.
The 32 year-old Hamadouche came into the bout with a staggering eighteen of her twenty-two wins (against a single loss) occurring inside the distance. A multi-sport competitor, she excelled at football before turning her attention to savate and kickboxing and, ultimately, the sweet science. Making her first U.S. appearance on Friday evening, the vast majority of her bouts have taken place in her native France.
Hamadouche fought only once in both 2019 and 2020, as she was among the handful of professional boxers controversially permitted to compete in amateur and Olympic qualifying tournaments during that time. She was ousted from the 2021 Tokyo games after losing a disputed split decision to Finland’s Mira Potkonen, the eventual bronze medalist, in the opening round. Spending three years as a decorated novice, Hamadouche debuted in the paid ranks in 2013, her lone defeat coming in her tenth bout when she dropped a close decision to then-WBC lightweight champion Delfine Persoon.
Having held the IBF super-featherweight title for nearly five years, Hamadouche claimed the vacant championship by outpointing Jennifer Salinas in November 2016. Prior to Friday, she had made six successful defenses, the last being eleven months ago—an eighth-round TKO of 6-3-1 Nina Pavlovic.
Despite the 78% KO ratio boasted by her heavy-handed adversary, Mikaela Mayer insisted during pre-fight pressers that she would be adopting a mindset and battle strategy whereby she would make it clear that Hamadouche “can’t bully me” and emphasized this by promising that “I plan on hurting her.”
It would have served Hamadouche well to heed this warning and not dismiss it as hyperbolic tough talk coming from someone unable or unwilling to back their words up. No doubt she would provide Mikaela with a relentless challenge to her fight or flight instincts, but if Hamadouche expected Mayer to slink away from her onslaughts or slowly wither under pressure, she was under a complete misapprehension.
The strategy Mayer had devised with her longtime trainer and the man she considers her second father, Al Mitchell, consisted primarily of using her height and reach advantage to create distance with her jab and box circles around Hamadouche from the outside. They also prepared for the inevitability of engaging her adversary from close quarters and, sure enough, this became the predominant theme of all ten rounds. Initially, this frantic pace favored Hamadouche and the Frenchwoman established what seemed to most observers to be an early lead, taking three of the first five rounds by virtue of her punch count and connect rate.
The second half of the fight belonged to Mikaela Mayer, who turned the tide for good in the middle rounds with a consistent body attack and by landing the harder, more effective shots, some of which visibly froze Hamadouche in place momentarily. Just as she vowed she would, Mayer bullied the bully and made quite an impression on everyone, fans and critics alike, by doing so.
As is often the case, the fight result was marred by egregiously incompetent scorekeeping. While it was clear that Mayer pulled away with the contest in the later, more meaningful rounds, the judges evidently suffered collective memory loss pertaining to the early success enjoyed by Hamadouche.
Tim Cheatham’s 98-92 card came closest to reality, but still missed the mark. Somehow, Max DeLuca awarded just one round to Hamadouche with his 99-91 tally, and it beggars all comprehension how Lisa Giampa arrived at a clean shutout for Mayer. Even in defeat and having surrendered her title belt, Maiva Hamadouche has nothing to hang her head about when it comes to her gritty performance. But, she has good reason to feel shortchanged and disrespected by those atrocious scores.
WBC/IBO titleholder Terri Harper and longtime WBA champion Hyun Mi Choi were set for a unification fight of their own back in May, but it had to be postponed due to Harper reinjuring the hand she had broken against Katherina Thanderz last November. Instead, Choi kept busy by notching a ninth-round stoppage of Simone Aparecida da Silva on September 18, and Harper will put her two belts on the line against 10-1 American contender Alycia Baumgardner this weekend.
It would be logical to deduce that, if triumphant, Harper will reschedule her showdown with Choi which will then set the stage for a winner-take-all matchup between the victor of that scrap and Mikaela Mayer in the latter part of 2022. Until then for Mayer, perhaps what will surely be another war of attrition against Delfine Persoon?
Whatever the case may be, Mikaela means business and made the boxing world sit up and take notice of that fact on Friday night.
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