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Preview: Mikaela Mayer and Maiva Hamadouche unify belts in matchup that promises action

Mikaela Mayer vs Maiva Hamadouche isn’t just “important” unifying titles, it also should be a hell of a good fight.

Mikaela Mayer and Maiva Hamadouche unify belts Friday on ESPN+
Mikaela Mayer and Maiva Hamadouche unify belts Friday on ESPN+
Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Main Event

Unification has become the name of the game for women’s boxing, as top fighters look to stake undisputed claims in their divisions. We’ll see more unification on Friday, as Mikaela Mayer and Maiva Hamadouche put up the WBO and IBF titles, respectively, in their 130 lb main event on ESPN+ in Las Vegas.

Why has this happened in women’s boxing more than the men’s side? The most likely answer is just that there isn’t the level of money and attention for women’s boxing that there is for the men, thus making more crucial than “interesting” the idea that they be able to promote The Champion, and not A Titleholder. “One champ per division” becomes a lot more important when you’re struggling to meet the interest level the general boxing public had for Roger Gutierrez and Rene Alvarado fighting for a WBA “regular” title.

None of this is meant as a knock on women’s boxing, either; I’m a supporter of women’s boxing and I love this fight in particular. It’s just an unfortunate reality. The good news is, promoters who have good women’s talent are looking to find a way to market them better, and they seem to have settled on, you know, having them take good fights and try to become the clear best in their division. This is good for fight fans.

Even if you’re not a big women’s boxing fan at all, I do think this is a fight you might want to give a shot. Mayer (15-0, 5 KO) and Hamadouche (22-1, 18 KO) make for a potentially tremendous style clash on top of this being an “important” fight with the titles and all that.

The 31-year-old Mayer represented Team USA at the 2016 Olympics, eliminated in the quarterfinal round by eventual bronze medalist Anastasia Belyakova of Russia. She signed with Top Rank — who haven’t had much to do with women’s boxing and still don’t apart from Mayer — and turned pro in 2017, so far out-classing every opponent she’s faced. She finally got a world title shot in Oct. 2020, routing an over-matched Ewa Brodnicka in Las Vegas to take the WBO belt.

This will be her first real main event for an ESPN platform. She did have a makeshift main event in July 2020, beating Helen Joseph in the Top Rank “bubble,” but that came because the original main event was canceled. This one is being done on purpose. ESPN and Top Rank both have put some real effort into promoting Mayer; they see a star quality here, and it’s very understandable that they do.

On the other side of the ring is Maiva Hamadouche. Where Mayer is a well-schooled boxer-puncher who uses her skills first and fights disciplined, the 32-year-old veteran from France is a rarity in the higher end of women’s boxing right now, a little tornado of offense who looks to do damage constantly, wants to overwhelm opponents with her attacks, and wants to get stoppages.

With a record of 22-1 (18 KO), it has been effective. Mayer is officially listed at 5’9”, Hamadouche at 5’4”, and the listed height difference looks legit when you see them standing next to one another. Mayer will no doubt want to use her skills, probably work behind a jab and put combinations together, and if she gets on that, it could be effective.

But it also seems almost certain that Hamadouche, whose only loss came to Delfine Persoon in 2015, will test Mikaela in a way we haven’t seen her tested in a pro ring to date. Hamadouche definitely isn’t going to just sit at the end of Mayer’s jab and get out-boxed, trying to figure out how she can out-box Mayer as 20 minutes tick by and the fight ends with Mikaela winning comfortably on points. Mikaela could win “comfortably” on points, in that she might win this fight wide on the cards, but she’s probably going to have to do a lot more work to get there than she did against Lizbeth Crespo and Ewa Brodnicka. Hamadouche is a determined, hard-charging, hard-fighting warrior.

And that’s why this matchup is so good. The boxer against the brawler, two proud and very confident fighters, plus two world titles on the line. The best fighting the best. It’s all we usually ask to see.

For what it’s worth, DraftKings have Mayer as a -340 favorite as of this writing, with Hamadouche at +265 as the underdog. Those odds seem roughly fair when you take into account all factors, including Hamadouche being the road fighter not just in geographical location of the event, but the fact she’s not promoted by the promoter promoting the show.

Undercard

Luis Melendez faces Thomas Mattice on Friday’s undercard Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The undercard was finalized and official just a few days ago, and while there’s nothing really “big” on the lineup, it’s got some interesting stuff, notably the co-feature between Luis Melendez and Thomas Mattice.

The 23-year-old Melendez (16-1, 13 KO) and 31-year-old Mattice (17-2-1, 13 KO) are matched well in an eight-round junior lightweight bout. Melendez, a Puerto Rican prospect, did suffer a split decision defeat in a four-round bout back in 2018, which was his third pro fight, but has been on a roll since then.

Still, he’s been on that roll in mostly very low-level fights. He’s fought some in Florida, where his best wins probably came in 2019 against veterans Christian Esquivel and Mario Lozano, both of whom he stopped early. But those are really just on-paper wins the same as his others; Esquivel has been stopped 20 times in his career, and Lozano four times in five defeats.

Mattice is a sincere and major step up in competition. The ShoBox veteran is no top contender or anything, but he’s been in with good opponents on several occasions, guys who can legit fight. He had a memorable bad decision go his way against Zhora Hamzaryan in 2018, and the two went to a draw in their rematch two months later. He then lost to Will Madera in 2019, but bounced back that same year to upset Michael Dutchover, who at the time was looking like a hot prospect. Mattice also fought and lost to Isaac Cruz (who is now set to fight Gervonta Davis) via majority decision in 2020.

We’ll get a chance to see if Melendez’s power and skills are real. Mattice is plenty good enough to expose him if they’re not.

In another 130 lb matchup, Andres Cortes (15-0, 8 KO) will look to stay unbeaten against Mark Bernaldez (23-4, 17 KO), both familiar faces on Top Rank undercards.

Bernaldez, from the Philippines, lost a 10-round decision to Albert Bell in July 2020, and was also beaten over eight rounds by Andy Vences on a 2019 card. This time, the 27-year-old’s assignment is a 23-year-old Las Vegas native who really turned some heads earlier this year in Tulsa, stopping Genesis Servania in the first round.

Elsewhere, we’ll see returns for lightweight Joseph Adorno and middleweight Tyler Howard, plus the pro debut of lightweight Abdullah Mason.

How to Watch

Mayer-Hamadouche will stream exclusively on ESPN+ starting at 7:55 pm ET on Friday, November 4. Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage for the event.