Mikaela Mayer

Instagram photo courtesy of Mikaela Mayer 

US Olympian Gold Medal Hopeful Mikaela Mayer

By David A. Avila

Southern California’s Mikaela Mayer battled through a fierce tournament to emerge as one of three young women to represent the U.S. female boxing team in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

It was Mayer’s second attempt. Four years ago, the tall former model ended up short in trying to make the female boxing team that headed to London. This time, after nonstop preparation, she won.

“It was a great feeling and I was so happy. It was the best feeling in the whole world,” said Mayer, 25, about winning a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team.

Born on the Fourth of July, the Southern California girl never had aspirations of entering the sport of boxing as a youth. She tried different things including modeling but felt something was missing in her life.

“When I was a young teen, I wasn’t focused on anything. I was traveling on the wrong path. I thought of kickboxing because there was a kickboxing gym by my house and became obsessed with it,” said Mayer.

Kickboxing then led her to the sport of boxing.

“First, there’s more of a ladder to climb in the US with boxing rather than with Muy Thai. My kickboxing trainer let me take boxing,” said Mayer, adding that her kickboxing trainers helped her during the early part of her amateur boxing career. “There was something about boxing that I wanted to learn more. I just eventually stuck with boxing and fell in love with it.”

She was 18 years old and entering a sport that usually saw youths enter at much earlier ages. At 5-feet, 9-inches tall and blessed with speed and athleticism, Mayer was able to climb to the finals the U.S. national tournament. But it ended with a close defeat and her London Olympic dreams fell short in 2011. She immediately decided to make changes.

“I lost 2 out of 4 of those fights and I wasn’t happy with my training. My coaches were Muy Thai and not boxing specialists,” Mayer said of her 2011 failed attempt. “My dad said there’s a boxing program in Northern Michigan with someone named Al Mitchell. He called me later that day and said they want me there in two weeks. I said yes let’s do it. Broke up with my boyfriend and quit my job. All I wanted to do was train. I had never been in northern Michigan and it was the best decision I made.”

Mitchell formerly headed a US Olympic boxing team and knows the intricacies of winning a tournament boxing match. Together they restructured her style and emphasized her strong points. During the past four years Mayer could be seen endlessly sparring in gyms throughout Southern California, Nevada and Colorado with pros and amateurs.

Several weeks ago, Mayer put all of her training and new experience to the test in the U.S. Olympic elimination tournament and fought her way to victory and a final spot on the Team USA female boxing team headed to Brazil.

“It was a great experience and I was able to come out on top,” said Mayer who defeated a fellow Southern Californian to nab the lightweight division title. “I was just hoping they (judges) saw what I felt. It was the best feeling in the world. It was a super emotional moment.”

This past weekend the Association International Boxing Amateur (AIBA) ranked Mayer number seven in the world of 132-pound female lightweight division. The Olympics feature only three female weight divisions. Along with Mayer, former 2012 Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields in the 165-pound middleweight division and newcomer Virginia Fuchs in the 114-pound flyweight division represent the USA female boxing team.

It took Mayer four years but she finally made it.

“I knew it was my year and it feels good to make that dream finally come true,” she said with self-assured clearness in her voice. “I had no doubt I would make it.”

Story originally appeared on Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper Tues. Dec. 8, 2015.