LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: WBO female jr. lightweight champion Mikaela Mayer is victorious as she defeats Erica Farias for the WBO female jr. lightweight championship at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on June 19, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Mayer vs. Farias

Mikaela Mayer’s inaugural defense of her WBO super-featherweight title was also her second consecutive billing as Top Rank on ESPN’s co-main event on a card featuring Naoya Inoue. Fittingly, Mayer’s first appearance on the Monster Show occurred last Halloween when she decisioned previously undefeated Ewa Brodnicka to win her first, and certainly not last, world championship.

At the age of 30, Mayer is six years younger than her Argentinian challenger and former two-division world champion Erica Anabella Farias, who was also impaired by having to shake off eighteen months’ worth of ring rust, having dropped a majority decision to Jessica McCaskill in October 2019 in a bid to reclaim the WBC super-lightweight title she lost to her the year before. Farias had held that belt since 2014, and previously made eight successful defenses of the green and gold lightweight belt she won in 2011 before being relieved of it by Delfine Persoon.

Hailing from Buenos Aires, the once upon a time pound-for-pound contender known as ‘La Pantera’ came up short against then-undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus and, all told, came into Las Vegas Saturday night with a 26-4 record with ten of those victories achieved before the final bell. While she may be past her prime, Farias represented a competitive step up in Mayer’s career advancement and, not to be taken lightly, a more than worthy adversary.

Mayer, at five-foot-nine, additionally enjoyed a five-inch height advantage which she paired with the effective use of a busy left jab to mostly keep Farias at arm’s length and get her work done from a comfortable distance. The crafty challenger created opportunities for herself in the early going by filling the void with sharp jabs and check hooks when Mayer would momentarily take her foot off the gas, becoming somewhat complacent and predictable in her punch selection.

With the wise and trusted counsel of her longtime trainer Al Mitchell, Mayer made the necessary adjustments midway through what was a more or less even fight to that point and came out hell bent for leather, attacking Farias’ midsection and marking up her face with double and triple jabs which paved the way for hard right hooks. Mitchell advised his star pupil to pursue her challenger who clearly was having trouble fighting off the backfoot, and Mayer dutifully complied.

This strategy had the desired effect. Farias had established a higher punch count than the defending champion throughout the first few rounds, but her work rate fell off considerably in the late going as she visibly began to wither under Mayer’s relentless onslaught.

Just as she has done over the course of her twelve-year career, Farias admirably finished the fight on her feet and congratulated Mayer who unanimously retained her title by a margin of 97-93 on one scorecard and matching tallies of 98-92 on the others.

The next logical step for Mikaela would be a unification match against IBF super-featherweight champion Maiva Hamadouche while playing a waiting game to amalgamate the division by pitting the winner of their contest opposite whomever comes out on top of the rescheduled bout between WBC champion Terri Harper and IBF titleholder Hyun Mi Choi.

Harper and Mi Choi were supposed to have consolidated those two titles on May 15 until Terri was forced to withdraw after suffering an injury to the same hand during a sparring session that she broke in last November’s title defense against Katharina Thanderz. 

Mayer has been calling out Terri Harper for some time now and that fight is without a doubt one of the most anticipated matchups in women’s boxing, right up there with Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano and Claressa Shields unifying the middleweight division against Savannah Marshall. When the Harper fight does happen, Mayer will not be relegated to appearing as the B-side. She will no doubt be the featured attraction.

 

Zamora vs. Esparza

Having missed out on the 2012 Olympics in London, Mikaela Mayer proceeded to the quarterfinals of the 2016 summer games where she was outpointed by eventual bronze medalist Anastasia Belyakova of Russia. In an interesting reversal of fortune, her Team USA colleague Marlen Esparza won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, but was deprived of the chance to repeat in Rio de Janeiro by losing twice to Virginia Fuchs in the 2016 qualifying trials.

Several hours before Mayer stepped into the ring to defend her world championship for the first time, Esparza survived an early scare in El Paso to claim her first world title.

Marlen won her first seven pro bouts before losing via technical decision to personal rival Seneisa Estrada in November 2019, thanks to a ghastly wound suffered as a result of an accidental headbutt. She rebounded with a win over previously undefeated Sulem Urbina last October, then resurfaced on the undercard of Claressa Shields’ Superwomen pay-per-view this past March where she looked less than stellar in a six-rounder against Shelly Barnett, competing at a career-high 119 pounds.

She obviously took this world title opportunity very seriously, slimming down to 111.4 to take on WBC flyweight champion Ibeth Zamora, who stepped on the scale at an identical weight for her fourth defense.

A veteran of 38 previous fights over fourteen years, of which Zamora had lost just four, an impressive 12 of her 32 wins had come inside the distance. Ibeth was making her United States debut, having fought outside of her native Mexico on only four occasions. She previously held the WBC light-flyweight title, winning the vacant strap in 2013 and making eight successful defenses before dropping the belt on a disputed split decision to Esmerelda Moreno, who she had knocked down in the first round.

Speaking of first-round knockdowns, Esparza came charging out of the gate throwing a heavy volume of shots, but Zamora countered her late in the opening frame with an overhand right over a lazy left jab that deposited Marlen momentarily onto her back pocket. She regained her footing before the referee could even begin the mandatory eight count and recovered well from the flash knockdown.

Seconds before the end of round four, Zamora tagged Esparza with a straight right and followed up with a left hook that buckled the challenger’s knees. Esparza tried to box behind her jab but the champion was intent on smothering her to make this a war of attrition, shooting body blows and short uppercuts on the inside. The bout was non-stop action with both combatants involved in a furious give and take over the course of all ten rounds.

At the end of the ninth, Esparza got rocked by a three punch combination and, thinking the fight was over, proceded to begin a premature celebration back in her corner only for the referee to break up the party with the news that there was still two minutes yet to go. 

Zamora poured it on prior to the final bell, pummeling Esparza with an intense flurry and seemed to have very likely put the closely contested fight just out of reach courtesy of the early knockdown.

The scores of 97-92, 95-94, and 96-94 were read aloud and Esparza dropped to her knees in gratitude at the words “and new…” while Zamora registered a look of disbelief on her face and waved to the crowd as if to signify that she and they knew who the real winner was despite how the judges collectively saw it. 

Hopefully, Golden Boy will do right by the former champion and grant Ibeth Zamora the opportunity to regain her title after such a controversial result this time around. One very lucrative grudge match looms on Esparza’s horizon, a return bout against Seneisa Estrada who, in the meantime, takes on WBO light-flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami on July 9 in an attempt to capture a world title in a second weight class.