Layla McCarter puts on her headgear atop her foppish hair before jumping in the Las Vegas boxing ring while a group of men stop to watch her work.

She enjoys the attention.

Since childhood McCarter has battled through drugs, physical abuse, and uncontrollable anger. Now she finds herself battling many of the best female prizefighters in the world and she loves it.

“There’s nothing better,” says McCarter (21-12-5) with a hint of an eastern seaboard accent. “Boxing is like a sedative for me.”

McCarter has used the sedative of boxing to climb to the top of the GBU lightweight division championship. She wants to add the WBA version in her bout against Donna Biggers (18-3-1) at the Orleans Hotel and Casino on Friday Jan. 5.

Biggers, a prizefighter out of South Carolina, has exhibited a willingness to fight the best lightweights out there including Jelena Mrdjenovich and Mia St. John. At 33, she has to do it quickly so she is fighting McCarter, one of the best boxers in the world.

More is at stake. It’s also going to be the first 12-round world title bout for women in Nevada. Last November, McCarter became the first woman in years to fight in a world title fight that included three-minute rounds instead of two-minute rounds.

The Las Vegas boxer loves to crusade for female equality.

“It gets me mad that we’re treated differently,” McCarter, 27, says. “We train the same as men.”

Not only do women train as much as their gender counterpart, they often spar often with men. This one particular day, McCarter battled round after round with her trainer Luis Tapia. No punches were pulled.

“We went 12 hard rounds. We were killing each other in there. I loved it,” McCarter says.

Tapia, 53, who formerly fought professionally, has trained McCarter for several years at the famous Johnny Tocco Boxing Club. Whenever he cannot find sparring partners for McCarter he jumps in the ring himself.

“It’s all in your mind,” Tapia says about tiring in the ring. “You have to convince yourself you are not tired.”

It’s this kind of advice that McCarter treasures.

During her youth, McCarter found herself unable to trust anyone and unwilling to heed advice.

“I was self-destructive,” she says. “My temper was real bad.”

Though many of her former traits have been erased, a few remain. One is a refusal to be intimidated.

A few years back, while she was walking at night to a destination in a dangerous section of Venice Beach, California, a carload of men stopped aside of her. One man jumped out and demanded she give up her wallet or he would beat her.

“I kept telling them I’m a girl,” said McCarter, adding that her hair was cut very short at the time. “He pushed me so I punched him back on the jaw. It surprised him.”

The man, in his 20s, kept firing punches at McCarter who refused to give up her money. They repeatedly threatened to shoot her. She refused to capitulate. During the struggle she lost her watch and the men jumped back in the SUV and drove off.

“The guy hit like a girl,” said McCarter who only suffered a slight bruise to her cheek despite sustaining two dozen punches from the robber. “I didn’t want to fight him. I wasn’t sure if he had a gun or not. But I didn’t want to give up my money. I needed it.”

McCarter has cooled the inner demons but hasn’t cooled the drive for knowledge inside the ring and in other exploits. She currently attends the Community College of Southern Nevada.

Despite working on final examinations that take her deep into the night studying, McCarter won’t postpone her attempt to win another world title.

“I just went 15 rounds today,” said McCarter on Sunday. “I feel great.”

Heavyweight undercard

Former IBF cruiserweight titleholder Kelvin “Concrete” Davis (23-4-2, 17 KOs) meets veteran spoiler Willie “Wreckless” Chapman (20-27-3, 6 KOs) in a bout scheduled for eight rounds at the Orleans Hotel and Casino on Friday.

Davis, a knockout puncher out of Natchez, Miss., seeks to make a move up the heavyweight ladder. He’s fought and beat Louis Azille, Arthur Williams and Ezra Sellers. His losses have come against the elite cruiserweights such as Guillermo Jones, O’Neil Bell and Steve Cunningham.

Chapman has beaten some pretty good heavyweights including Malcolm Tann, Davarryl Williamson and Cliff Couser. He’s also battled with some of the best in the game such as Lamon Brewster, Lance Whitaker and Fres Oquendo.

Tickets are still available. For more information call (800) 675-3267.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Anthony Peterson (21-0) vs. Juan Garza (28-2).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Jose Santa Cruz (23-2) vs. Luis Arceo (19-4-2).

Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Anthony Hanshaw (21-0) vs. Jean Paul Mendy (23-0).

Sat. Showtime, 10 p.m., James Toney (69-5-3) vs. Samuel Peter (27-1).