Mikaela Mayer : Journey into the Pandemic and More
By Felipe Leon
Mikaela Mayer had a rollercoaster year that could lead to establishing new protocols for Covid-19 testing in the world of prizefighting.
It has been a difficult 2020 for super featherweight title contender Mayer. The undefeated fighter was scheduled to face Melissa Hernandez in mid-March before her promoter Top Rank decided to pull the plug of the event scheduled in New York City. Reason: coronavirus.
Last week Mayer (12-0, 5 KOs) was set to face the tough Helen Joseph (17-4-2, 10 KOs) in the semi-main event in the first fight card back on the ESPN airwaves. A positive Covid-19 test for the 29-year-old Mayer killed that fight as well.
Mayer, who is the only female boxer under the Top Rank banner, does not dispute the fact she had Covid-19 but has learned enough about the virus to fully believe she was no harm to her scheduled opponent or others she might have come in contact with.
“The facts are you can still have a positive Covid-19 test if you have encountered the virus in the past,” Mayer explained in an exclusive interview with the all-female boxing podcast 2-Min Round. “You can not be contagious, it can not be current but it can remain in your system for a period of time. In order to have proper results you would have to compare your Covid-19 test with your antibody test and your blood work.”
“That is the only way to find out if you are actually going to be spreading the virus around and have a negative effect on anybody you are around,” she continued. “Otherwise we are still learning about this disease so if you had it in the past, you can’t discriminate against the millions of people who have had Covid-19. Me having it in the past does not make me ineligible to fight but because we don’t have enough information. We weren’t able to prove that I was not infectious and that I should have been able to fight on that card without causing any harm to anyone.”
Top Rank has developed a Covid-19 free zone they are referring to as “The Bubble” within the grounds of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. From there, ESPN has been and will be transmitting live boxing for all of June into July as planned. Part of the protocol is if you test positive for the virus, you must leave the premises immediately.
Once Mayer’s result was made public, she was asked to leave the premises of the hotel within an hour. Mayer, originally from Los Angeles, CA, resorted to renting a vehicle and making the 13-hour trek home to Colorado Springs, CO.
“It was a learning experience for us all,” George Ruiz, Mayer’s manager, stated. “I received a call early Sunday morning by Brad Jacobs over at Top Rank that she had tested positive and, as a result, she wasn’t going to fight. That was a shock to me because I knew Mikaela had the antibodies because obviously she had been exposed to Covid-19 sometime in the past and was not really aware of it. I was shocked. Whatever exposure she had to Covid-19 is now past her system and she has mature antibodies in her system. She shouldn’t be infectious, she shouldn’t be a threat to any other fighter and she is clearly asymptomatic.”
The rest of Mayer’s team tested negative for the virus but because one of her coaches, Kay Koroma, had contact with her, he had to leave the bubble as well. Koroma was also scheduled to work in the main event in the corner of current WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson. Once Ruiz spoke to Mayer, he immediately lobbied for a re-test but to no avail.
“Because of the agreements Top Rank, ESPN, MGM Resorts and the Nevada State Athletic Commission all had in place, they all had agreed, one positive test and you were out, there was no wiggle room, no room for discussion, no set of circumstances that would have changed their mind for the first card back after the pandemic.”
Ruiz as well as Mayer does take into consideration these protocols were put in place to protect everybody from this virus the world is still learning about.
“Let’s be clear, if you are infectious, you shouldn’t fight,” Ruiz adamantly stated. “If you have the realistic possibility of infecting another fighter or another person in the production of the show, you absolutely should not fight. Safety first. We are saying that if you had Covid-19 in the past and you are no longer sick and infectious, then let the science and the medical experts decide. Let’s not have a rule that discriminates against anyone who may have been exposed to Covid-19 at any time in the past. There is going to be a growing number of people in America, a growing number of athletes and a growing number of boxers over time. If they have been exposed to Covid-19 and they can’t pass a Covid-19 positive test because of that then you are just going to kill the sport.”
Navigating new waters
Since Mayer’s positive result, another fighter, featherweight Cristian Zavala, has been scratched from the June 16th card Top Rank promoted card as well as former world champion Silvia Torres who was slated to fight on June 20th in Mexico City and a Zanfer Promotions card from the studios of Mexican TV network Azteca.
Mayer credits her team and especially her manager in helping her navigate these unprecedented waters mid-Covid-19 pandemic. Mayer’s relationship with Ruiz is a unique one because, as she describes it, he does much more for her than a typical boxing manager.
“What George does for me is not text book manager,” Mayer added. “I am so lucky and grateful because I have everything in one. I have an agent reeling in sponsorship and endorsement deals, I have a manager negotiating my purse and contracts for my actual boxing fights, I have a publicist strategizing and helping me build my brand, I have a stylist, I am literally getting ready for an event and I am sending him pictures of the outfit for the type of event we are going to.”
He wears so many hats, he does so much for me, when people ask me about a manager, I can’t really give them that advice because the relationship I have with my manager is not standard,” she explained. “We are all a team, we all collaborate together, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for George. He is more than a manager to me; he has helped me to build my brand, this is his brand too, he is just behind the scenes.”
According to Ruiz their working relationship came from a chance meeting at a talent agency in Hollywood, CA, where Ruiz worked. An agent at the firm asked Ruiz to take a meeting with Mayer as a favor. An attorney for nearly 30 years, Ruiz met with Mayer right after she lost at the Olympic trials in 2012.
“I didn’t know much about her, I’ve read a couple of things in the LA Times about how close she had gotten to making it,” he said of the meeting. “After five minutes of meeting her, I said to myself if this girl can fight she is a star. I signed her on the spot.”
Mayer went pro in 2017 after making the 2016 Olympic team. Since her pro debut she has steadily climbed up the ranks positioning herself as the #1 contender according to the WBC at 130-pounds. The IBF and WBA rate her at #2. The WBO does not share female rankings. In late 2018 Mayer captured the vacant NABF super featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Vanessa Bradford. Since then she has defended the regional title three times against the likes of Calista Silgado, Yareli Larios and Alejandra Zamora.
In 2020 Mayer is gunning for one name and one name only, the current WBC super featherweight champion Terri Harper.
“I am absolutely better than Terri Harper,” Mayer answered when asked if she felt she was better than the current world champion. “Way more well-rounded, way more experience, I had never heard her name until she had a title fight against the long-standing world champion. She is the world champion now, that is her title, I will give her that.”
“We have to make these mandatories more strict,” she said. “I have been the #1 contender for over a year. It is way too hard to get a world title fight. Harper was ranked #15 when she got this title shot versus me at #1.”
Mayer along with her manager are willing to go over to the United Kingdom and face Harper as long as it makes sense.
“I will take that fight whenever they offer it, if they offer it tomorrow we are in,” Mayer said.
“The terms need to be right,” Ruiz interrupted. “Generally speaking, yes but there is a lot we would need to negotiate first. That is a big fight and I think the world should see that fight and hopefully we are in a situation where an audience can be let into an arena and not just in a backyard to watch a world championship.”
“The money has to be right, everything has to be right,” Mayer agreed. “Absolutely, I am ready to fight her whenever, I am ready to take her belt whenever. I know I will.”
With her positive test and the Covid-19 result still in her system, when can the title fight opportunity be expected?
“It is about adjusting the protocols to reflect a more scientific and a more medical approach to accepting a fighter,” Ruiz said. “What we need to look at is, does she pose any threat to her opponent or anybody else involved? Is she infectious? Right now, based on what we are hearing and also from a doctor who looked at her blood work, determined she is not infectious and does not pose a threat. Going forward, we need to look at this deeper and find out if she is a threat.”
“If the answer is yes and it’s a medical yes, then we don’t believe she should fight but we don’t think that is the case,” he continued. “Based on what we have been told from a doctor who is an expert in this area, she is beyond that, she is carrying antibodies that show she has been exposed but she is no longer a threat or infectious at all. The protocols need to show the reality of that. That is what we need to talk about with the NSAC, Top Rank, ESPN and the MGM.”
Looks like we might see Mayer as soon as July as the powers that be have been refining the protocol for positive tests since hers was made public.
(Photo by JP Yim)
To listen to the full-unedited nearly one-hour long interview, please visit BlogTalkRadio.com/2MinRound