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Mikaela Mayer at StubHub on Saturday

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  • Mikaela Mayer at StubHub on Saturday

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    Mikaela Mayer vs Maria Semertzoglou at StubHub

    By David A. Avila

    When you first meet Mikaela Mayer you realize the tall Southern Californian though always cordial is a driven athlete. No nonsense, simply driven.

    Mayer (3-0, 2 KOs) returns home and faces Greece’s Maria Semertzoglou (7-3) in a six round super featherweight fight at the StubHub Center in Carson. The Top Rank fight card will be televised by ESPN and the ESPN app.

    “I love it that’s its outdoors. Fought once outdoors in Brazil it brings a different atmosphere,” said Mayer, 27. “I have a hand full of people that will show up and be there. I know it’s close to my close hometown.”

    It was almost two years ago that Mayer fought her way to Rio de Janeiro as a member of the US Olympic boxing team. Unknown to pro boxing fans are the various highly volatile amateur battles with other Americans to make the team.

    For years Mayer would drive from gym to gym looking for sparring whether in the barrios of Los Angeles to the warrior gyms in Las Vegas. She was obsessed with learning and sparring to improve her fighting skills that led to her winning a spot on the US Olympic team.

    Now she’s a professional and remains the same driven athlete bent on not just winning, but pounding out opponents with her power. So far, two of three opponents were dismantled by Mayer. She has power.

    Under her veteran trainer Al Mitchell the transformation from the fast-punching but slapping amateur style to the more settled down and power-driven combinations has come naturally to Mayer.

    “Maybe I was always meant to be a pro anyway. Coach Al (Mitchell) always had me boxing and turning. It’s my natural boxing style any way, the pro style,” said Mayer by phone. “That’s Coach Al. he doesn’t like the hippity-hoppity amateur style. He always said settle down. Amateur is in and out fast punches, turning pro he wants me to step into my power punches.”

    It’s easier said than done. But Mayer has shown natural power and the knowledge how to use it though her last opponent Nydia Feliciano stopped the short two-fight knockout streak.

    “She was a strong durable fighter. Coach Al maybe knew she has never been stopped before and told me we’re not going to head hunt. We’re going to work the body. He wanted me to work on other things, not just scoring and head hunting,” Mayer said of her fight against Feliciano that ended in a majority decision win last December in New York City. “He wanted me to work the body and see that I can do that, so when in the tougher fights I can do that. We worked that and Coach Al was happy.”

    It was exactly the type of win Mayer’s team wanted before moving up to the tougher pro competition like her next opponent Semertzoglou, who also had an solid amateur background and now has 10 pro fights.

    “I’ve never fought her as an amateur. She (Semertzoglou) competed for the Greek national team for a couple of years. She has been pro for a while,” said Mayer who as an amateur fought throughout the world in various international tournaments. “At this stage there’s not a ton of information. I don’t think she has technical prowess, but she does seems to want to land that right hand.”

    Mayer expects a tough match and though she rarely watches tape her opponent’s weaknesses and strengths have been analyzed completely.

    “Coach Al watches tape religiously. He will watch 15 times and make me watch once or twice. When we’re in the gym he knows what punches to tell me to stick to,” explains Mayer.

    Future plans

    It’s been a fast-moving process for the former Olympian and only female signed by Top Rank. After the Rio Olympics ended Mayer had no idea professional boxing was in her future.

    “I didn’t have plans to be a pro a couple of years ago. When I felt it was the right time I signed with Top Rank. I didn’t have the expectations, which is good,” she said. “So far I’ve been very happy. Top Rank has been great. It’s one thing to find a female but it’s another thing to be showcasing her on a (Vasyl) Lomachenko card.”

    If you saw Mayer’s pro debut in Los Angeles this last summer it was a one-sided first round knockout that ended with a body shot. It stopped opponent Widnelly Figueroa cold.

    “When Mikaela turned pro in August we were shocked with her jab, jab, right hand combination. She is very well-schooled by Al Mitchell and all the years teaching her she is only going to get better,” said Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman. “For a woman, she gets good leverage on her shots. We were all very much surprised.”

    In her next fight against Allison Martinez another knockout occurred but this time in the third round in Tucson, Arizona. Her promoter was convinced of her power but wanted to test her endurance so she was matched against Feliciano.

    “Last fight I saw she got a little bit tired in the fourth round but other than that she is great to watch,” says Goodman a veteran matchmaker for more than 20 years.

    Top Rank has the undefeated Mayer’s road already planned and designed. Matching her with a tough Greek fighter is by calculated design.

    “She (Semertzoglou) is a tough rugged girl who will come face first. She has experience and that’s what we’re looking for. I would be happy if it went six rounds,” said Goodman. “I want to see how Mikaela goes for six rounds. It will make her the complete package. She will then have that confidence to go eight rounds.”

    After that, then who knows?

    “This is my first six rounder. Then I want to get into a title fight at the end of the year,” says Mayer who looks to remain at super featherweight this year then move into the lightweight division next year.

    Her promotion company wants to view the landscape first.

    “She will fight anybody. If the opportunity is there she is very much capable of competing at that level if it is there,” said Goodman.

    At the moment, the Las Vegas-based company likes what it sees from the self-driven Southern Californian.

    “We’re really excited about her progress,” Goodman says. “She is a technician and sets up everything with the jab. I’m very impressed. Top Rank is very impressed.”

    She is truly driven.