Boxer Mikaela Mayer Proving Women In Sport Are More Than “Just A Pretty Face”

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When you think of boxing images of Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson or “the greatest” Muhammad Ali come to mind. But what about women? The truth is that boxing is still very much a male-dominated sport, but that is slowly changing. The 2012 London summer Olympics allowed women’s boxing for the first time ever, a major step forward for equality!

So now that women have this platform, how will the numbers increase on a large scale? It may take time, but the biggest factor is representation. Girls cannot envision themselves being something if they can’t see a tangible example in the real world. While women have been boxing for decades and decades, just not getting the same amount of attention or paychecks as the men, we are entering the dawn of a new era where it is normal for a woman to compete in boxing at a professional level.

We interviewed Jill Morley about her film ‘Fight Like A Girl’ in 2014 who spoke candidly about the lack of equal pay being a huge problem in luring women to the sport. In her documentary she featured Maureen Shea who is not only a champion boxer, but played Hilary Swank’s boxing double in her Oscar-winning film ‘Million Dollar Baby’, yet Maureen still struggles to make ends meet with her boxing career. She also broke down stigma about the “fight like a girl” mantra and how it is anything but a negative or seen as a weaker version of men’s boxing.

If there is anyone else who can prove that, it is pro boxer Mikaela Mayer who is not only a champion herself, but has a very interesting journey in her boxing career where today she is living proof that women in sport are more than “just a pretty face”.

Mikaela is 24 and is considered a top contender for the US Olympic team. She is also said to be the no.1 female boxer in the US in the 132lb weight division, and is a two-time national champion, but it didn’t always start off that way.

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Mikaela actually started her career as a model. She gave up modeling at the age of 17 when she discovered boxing and hasn’t looked back since. The Los Angeles native decided to pick it up after a rough few high school years where she was told she wasn’t going to amount to anything by her teachers. Upon hearing those words she decided to take her future back into her own hands and get her life back on track.

She started out doing Muay Thai boxing at her local gym and started competing in amateur comps. It was the path she was always meant to find, but it had to come through trial and error. That trial and error was modeling.

“Before I found boxing, I was convinced that I wanted to be a model. I think it was just the idea of being a model that sounded cool to me. I was young and wanted to do something glamorous and cool. I started pursuing it at about 15. I posed for people’s portfolios and tried to get an agent,” she wrote in an essay for Cosmopolitan magazine.

But being “cool” wasn’t the right thing for Mikaela who was also partying and drinking a lot in school.

“When I found boxing, I switched gears. It focused me. I stopped going out. I stopped partying. I cracked down on school,” she told ABC News’ ‘Nightline’.

“Once I really got into boxing, I realized that’s what I wanted to do. Boxing gave me a purpose and a passion, which is the most important thing you can find. I found it early, which is so great.”

Having pursued a career based on looks, and now involved in a sport that relies little on looks but unfortunately places that undue burden upon female athletes anyway, Mikaela has a keen perspective on this issue of being judged by her exterior.

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“That’s always been an issue with women and women in sports and women in the business world and being successful in general. Should looks matter? No, they shouldn’t matter. How you fight in the ring, your skill, your performance: that’s all that should matter. But the truth is it does matter. Companies, they want to put a pretty face behind their products, and it’s sad, but true,” she said.

When it come to women in sport, being sexy is the key to big sponsorship deals. It’s their ticket to marketability, unlike men whose marketability literally comes from their ability. There’s not a chance in hell male athletes like Roger Federer or Lionel Messi would be getting the 6 figure sponsorship deals they do if they were ordinary men.

Yet in the world of female athletics, it’s not just about winning as many rounds as Ronda Rousey, it’s about how her body looks in designer clothes, in advertising and how sexy she looks doing it. For Mikaela, having that modeling background may not have been her idea start to life, but it enabled her to appreciate that this was the ticket to getting a decent paycheck.

She told ABC News she makes roughly $12,000 a year from her boxing career. Let’s just compare that to the reported $700 million Floyd Mayweather made in his historic fight against Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2nd.

It sucks that a woman’s ability in sport doesn’t always equal the cash cow it deserves, but thankfully Mikaela scored a Dr. Pepper commercial deal and an American Family Insurance sponsorship which bumped up her pay to 6-figures. This didn’t happen until 2013 though.

“It was a great feeling when an athlete gets that kind of recognition from a major company. They just called me one day and asked if I wanted to work with a national campaign with Dr. Pepper/Snapple. That was amazing. Being an athlete, we make our money through sponsorships and endorsements. That was a really good way to help support myself on this Olympic dream,” she said.

Mikaela’s path has been unique but not without plenty of guts, glory and hard work. By the time she was 20 she already had 40 fights under her belt. She reached a level in the amateur world where she felt she learned all she could, and decided to take it to the next level. She received a partial scholarship to Northern Michigan University which had the only boxing program in the US at the time.

She was training under 3-time Olympic boxing coach Al Mitchell, but a semester into the program USA Boxing decided they didn’t have the funds to continue the 25 year old program, and Mikaela had to go back to LA.

She continued training with Al and by 2012 had qualified for Olympic trials. However the Olympics were never really on her radar as it wasn’t even an option for women until that year, but when they announced it would be in 2012 Mikaela’s dad was very supportive in encouraging her to make that her next big goal.

Mikaela just won the national championships in January and together with her paycheck from USA Boxing her and highly sought-after endorsement deals, she is 100% focused on training for the Olympics in 2016.

Now that women can compete at Olympic level, it opens up a whole new world for women in the sport and every four years it will get just that little bit bigger each time.

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For Mikaela, who has scraped and scrapped her way to becoming a national champion and on the road to represent the US in 2016, she sees her success and experience so far as an encouragement to other girls.

“There have definitely been times when I’ve doubted my journey, which everyone does. You’re not always winning; the money isn’t always rolling in. There are times when I’m like, Is this realistic? Can I do this? Am I wasting my time? And I’ve had moments when I wasn’t getting the respect I thought I deserved. There are those times you have to just keep going, keep believing in your journey no matter what. That’s what separates somebody who ends up accomplishing her goals from somebody who doesn’t,” she said in her Cosmo essay.

There is no back up plan, and even though she knows her chances may be slim, she says it takes a strong dedicated person to do that and she intends to win.

“We don’t realize it now, but this is the beginning. The Olympics is only going to help women’s boxing grow even more,” she tells ABC news.

We’re inspired by people like Mikaela who show that fighting spirit despite the odds and inequalities they face. We’re inspired because she doesn’t see this as a setback or a negative, rather as a chance to prove others wrong. At the end of the day she believes in her ability to be the best, or even “the greatest” like Muhammad Ali, and that’s something we should all take away from her incredible journey, which is only just beginning.

We eagerly anticipate her appearance in Rio in 2016 and will be cheering like mad women for Mikaela Mayer!


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News
 

One Comment

  1. She is proving the opposite. Clarissa Shields, who has now won two gold medals has 0 endorsements and not much attention. Mikaela who is prettier and worse at boxing has plenty of endorsements.

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