Alycia Baumgardner has come up the hard way. She doesn’t believe the same can be said about Mikaela Mayer, writes Lewis Watson
THEY say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and Alycia Baumgardner has left both wide open for the boxing world to look through. The 28-year-old’s stare, as she talks to [i]Boxing News[i], is almost unsettling.
“Mikaela [Mayer] has been spoiled her whole career,” Baumgardner declares about Saturday night’s opponent. “She [Mayer] honestly doesn’t know what she’s got herself into by taking this fight against me. Many things have been handed to her on a silver platter throughout her career; she needs to be humbled. Our paths couldn’t have been much different. She’s come up through the Olympic route and has been given every opportunity as a pro without having to fight for it.
“I’ve been forced to bet on myself and take the longer route to where I want to be – which she clearly doesn’t respect. We have to be smart when we use the word [i]privilege[i] but I mean it in the sense that, without the merits of her [i]personal[i] work, she has enjoyed perks and afforded opportunities that were not available to me. But for me, it just shows we are used to a [i]very[i] different kind of struggle; and a different type of grind, and I’m cool with that.”
Baumgardner is still new to this level of attention. But she’s a natural in the art of selling her talent. The Ohio fighter burst onto the scene at the end of 2021 in a late-notice assignment against Terri Harper, stopping the previously unbeaten Briton decisively in the fourth round of their contest thanks to a highlight reel right hand.
Harper’s torso froze centre-ring, as her legs began to dance in submission, before referee Mark Lyson stopped the bout handing Baumgardner a break-out win in the super-featherweight division. She’ll fight in the United Kingdom for the third time in a row against Mayer and is beginning to feel at home since signing with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.
“Fighting in the UK is great as the fans really get behind you. If anything, I am probably more famous in the UK than I am in the US after the Harper win,” she explained. “But I am not naive enough to think that the whole crowd is going to be rooting for Alycia Baumgardner in London. What’s great about this show is that all four of us girls will appeal to different sections of the crowd and support – people will be able to relate to the stories of myself, Mayer, [Claressa] Shields or [Savannah] Marshall to a certain degree.
“But if I am being completely honest, I would have loved to have been on a separate card to Shields and Marshall. I think both fights are huge for women’s boxing and could individually stand on their own. But still, I’m excited that we can have a powerful women’s card and be part of something bigger than [i]just[i] women’s boxing, this is huge for boxing in general!
“This moment will elevate the entire sport by showing how women can hold an entire card together and entertain the fans just as well as our male counterparts. With these fights, we’re not just elevating boxing, but we are also setting the tone for what all women’s athletics can and should be in the future. But ultimately, I am not sure there is a need to separate cards and make a point of distinguishing between men’s or women’s fights.”
As much as we discuss the wider boxing landscape, the conversation naturally reverts back to September 10 and facing her rival, Mayer, in the opposite corner. The pair have enjoyed months of verbal sparring back and forth on social media, but Baumgardner is savvy enough to admit it’s part of the game.
“I’m not someone that hates anyone really,” the 28-year-old explained. “But she’s just been very annoying. And so boring! I guess it just comes down to the simple fact that I know I can beat her, so when she claims to be so superior all the time it doesn’t sit right with me.
“Sure, she knows ‘ring’ but I can’t pinpoint anything that she does that is outstanding in any way. She’s experienced and does everything that a boxer should do, but nothing extra. But her main weakness is that she leaves herself open to getting hit very often. She’s been hurt before more than once. The [Maïva] Hamadouche fight showed me that she puts her face out there to get hit. And if you get hit by me, you’re definitely gonna see the canvas.”
Baumgardner doesn’t stop there. Any thoughts of interjecting are soon rebuffed as she dials into a deeper assessment of her rival. Becoming more and more agitated, she reaches a crescendo in her analysis of the 32-year-old.
“Her footwork is horrible!” she claims, stopping herself from laughing. “It’s that typical amateur style that hasn’t transitioned well into the pros. She’s not sharper than me, she’s not faster than me, she’s not smarter than me. All she’s got is a big will to win, and I will break that.”
Baumgardner has reaped the rewards of a full camp for this fight, something that has become a rarity throughout her career for a number of reasons. As an up-and-coming fighter, she’s been forced to grab opportunities when they arise, unwilling to wait in line for that perceived perfect moment.
“Nobody has seen Alycia at this level or this prepared,” she continues. “I’m an athlete above everything; my athleticism speaks for itself. I’m always in shape, so I’ve been focusing on sharpening up during this camp. Everything I’m good at. My jab? Even faster. My punch? Even stronger.”
With a defeat on her record and a tougher path to the top, Baumgardner is convinced she has learned the hard way for the better. “You learn through tough times, not through a lack of challenges,” she concludes, before finishing our conversation as serious and self-assured as she started.
“There is no doubt that I am the biggest pound-for-pound puncher in the women’s game – just ask Christina Linardatou or Terri Harper. Mikaela Mayer is next to find this out first hand. This fight won’t go past seven rounds. I am going to dog walk her; hit her so hard that her face will be messed up forever. You’ll see.”