Six U.S. boxers — four men and two women — have locked up berths in the 2016 Olympic summer games in Rio de Janeiro. The latest to qualify is 25-year-old Los Angeles lightweight Mikaela Mayer. Born on the Fourth of July, Mayer defeated Mexico’s Victoria Torres in the championship round of the Americas Qualifier tournament in Buenos Aires to secure the berth. She joins light flyweight Nico Hernandez, bantamweight Shakur Stevenson, lightweight Carlos Balderas and middleweights Charles Conwell and Claressa Shields on the U.S. team.
The male boxers that failed to qualify in Buenos Aires will have two more opportunities to make the cut. For flyweight Virginia Fuchs, it will be do-or-die when she competes in the final qualifying event for female boxers at Astana, Kazakhstan in May.
Mikaela Mayer transitioned into boxing after getting her start in Muay Thai. A self-described girly girl from a family of hippies, she has worked as a model and a bartender and has already appeared in a Dr. Pepper commercial. In an earlier era, writers for major publications would have inevitably referenced her as a blonde bombshell (albeit she’s not always a blonde).
Mayer stayed the course after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team, losing in the finals of the Olympic trials. In Buenos Aires this past week, she defeated boxers from Puerto Rico, Canada, and Barbados to claim her place in the finals.
Mayer and defending Olympic middleweight champion Claressa Shields will be favored to take home the gold in Rio. If that transpires, that would give the U.S. two of the three gold medals. The Olympic committee recognizes only three weight classes for female boxers. Another difference is that bouts for women consist of four two-minute rounds and not three three-minute rounds, as has always been the rule on the men’s side.
The U.S. team left Buenos Aires without locked-in Olympic qualifiers in the three highest weight classes. The most prominent Olympic hopeful, heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (aka Lenroy Thompson), came within an eyelash of qualifying, losing a split decision to his Brazilian opponent. The colorful Awesome dubs himself the Taylor Swift of boxing.