Alycia Baumgardner was fighting on a regional fight card in 2020 and now is one fight away from being an undisputed super featherweight champion. So, in short, Baumgardner was a fighter with one loss to her record, fighting on club shows, who never lost her belief in herself in the process.
Baumgardner took a b-side fight against Terri Harper to win the WBC super featherweight title. Baumgardner had an iconic and career-defining KO that revived her career – put her on the map as a sporting collective. Prior to that, I knew of Baumgardner for two reasons 1) major brands like Adidas backing her as she was a model as well as a professional boxer, as well 2) she had two strange fights in 2018, in back-to-back bouts that always were cautionary to me. I still, to this day, wonder what happened in those fights as they're clear outliers in her career.
In April 2018, she fought Kirstie Simmons to a split decision win. Three months later, she lost a split decision to Christina Linardatou, the only two split decisions of her career until she fought Mayer. The loss was damning as she was fighting on Marshall Kauffman shows around the country, hoping to get a chance, while a slew of women boxers were getting famous and more than likely rich. Mikaela Mayer probably was her prime focus of contention as Mayer landed an ESPN deal with Top Rank as a fighter and broadcaster. It is clear that ESPN was invested in Mayer's career, not just as a fighter, but as a personality.
The bad blood between the two seemingly came down to the archetype of most great feuds. One person achieves a lot, and the other feels that circumstances didn't allow them to achieve it.
Based on your view of the world, you could also take that narrative into social-economic situations, though I think that becomes a bit unfair, as those types of conversations tend to bring in a person's baggage and trauma and not facts all the time. Mayer was, to some, the status quo, and Baumgardner was the resistance to that.
The truth is Mikaela Mayer has earned her spot in the sport. She was an Olympian in 2016 and was not gifted that – she didn't get that from being a nice person – nope! Mayer won tournaments and qualified to be an Olympian. Mayer has a very good manager in George Ruiz, who has landed Mayer multiple marquee deals, most notably being the first woman signed to Top Rank Inc., which has since paved the way for Seniesa Estrada to now become signed with the industry giant.
Baumgardner was a capable professional, but due to the politics of boxing, and an early loss on her record, she wasn't afforded the luxuries Mayer had gotten prior, such as a network deal or even marquee fights. Baumgardner was in a rock-and-a-hard place and did what all great fighters do, fight their way out of it.
While Shields and Marshall had a level of mutual respect with their trash-talk, Mayer and Baumgardner were spiritual opposites. They annoyed each other – and the tension was so high it felt like whoever you were drawn to more was who you sided with and found ways to dislike the other.
If we're being honest, both fighters are socially awkward. Mayer has been a pro athlete for most of her adult life, and she tries to conduct herself as a professional, but what I gathered from some people online is that Mayer can come off as snobby or arrogant at times. I mean, she is a fighter. Baumgardner is boisterous with no filter while being unapologetically who she is, which can be a bit aggressive. Once again, she is a fighter – so that is normal, right?
What I saw was people choosing sides based on what they felt was the truth from limited media interactions, with a laziness narrative being written that Mayer was privileged and Baumgardner had to earn her spot. Baumgardner, in hindsight, gave me Aaron Pryor vibes with her strong self-belief in herself. Whereas Mayer was focused on the fight – and was not a fan of Baumgardner's antics in the build-up to the fight.
The end result of a split decision win in Baumgardner's favor left us wanting more. Mayer was pissed, and Baumgardner was antagonistic in saying Mayer won't get the rematch. However, Baumgardner can become undisputed in her next bout against the WBA champion, Choi, who is promoted by our good friend, Paco Damian of Woodland, California.
This feels like the makings of a great women's rivalry in which Mayer and Baumgardner need to earn each other's respect through a few more fights in the ring, and honestly, I think we will get that – just not next. It is two different paths and two different journeys, but it leads to one defining moment – one that saw Baumgardner take everything Mayer had worked for, and even worse for Mayer while mocking her all week.
Now we find out who Mikaela Mayer is, as a champion is defined by how they respond to adversity, but also with Baumgardner, we will learn how she handles success – as she might be one of the only pro boxers to land marquee endorsement deals like Ryan Garcia, after this win and even more so if she becomes undisputed. The fight left us wanting more – and that is rare these days. It settled very little and created even more conflict than a pound-for-pound list.
The fight to me was simple. The first three rounds went to Baumgardner. The next three went Mayer; then the last four were up in the air. I had the bout a draw with the pair splitting the final four rounds, but each round was close – as a small thing could've been the difference in the fight, and with judges giving out 10-10 rounds, you have to wonder why in such a close fight.
The tone of the fight was set and fought more so by Baumgardner, but it felt like Mayer really began to take over large parts of the second half of the fight. Unlike Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano, it never hurts to have a controversial ending to a fight – as it only makes the next one bigger.
Baumgardner has changed her life in 11 months, as she went from a lesser-known b-side fighter to one of the most marketable fighters in the sport of boxing and an a-list interview. What is the overarching theme…despite all of her trash talk – she was capable of backing it up. That is rare, the mental pressure of the trash talk never weighed on her, and maybe like the older timers say – it was an early loss that prepped her for her win against Mayer. It is a great time to be a women's boxing fan, and Baumgardner emerged in 2022, not unlike Hector Luis Garcia, to become one of the sport's marquee names.