Mikaela Mayer took another step toward becoming the undisputed junior lightweight champion Friday night in Las Vegas, beating Maiva Hamadouche by unanimous decision to retain her WBO title and pick up Hamadouche's IBF crown.
Mayer won the fight 100-90, 99-91, 98-92 -- with two scorecards not necessarily indicative of what happened in the ring.
The fight was an absolute brawl from the opening bell, as Mayer and Hamadouche stood at the middle of the ring and traded punch after punch. And it didn't stop throughout the 10 rounds, which were a constant flurry of movement and connection between the two.
It was a fight the 31-year-old Mayer had sought since winning her first title, the WBO crown, in 2020.
"That I could bang it out on the inside, that wasn't really the entire game plan," Mayer said on ESPN after the fight. "The game plan was to use my boxing too, but in the back of my head, I knew she was going to keep that gap closed and that she was going to keep me on the inside.
"Even though we trained for that, just being able to do that for 10 straight rounds definitely taught me a lot."
Mayer, ESPN's No. 1-ranked fighter at junior lightweight, landed 239 of 594 punches with 78 body shots -- her punches landed and thrown both personal bests. Hamadouche (22-2, 18 KO) landed 233 of 872 punches, with just 13 body shots. Of those 872 punches thrown, 728 attempts were power punches with 29% landed. Mayer (16-0, 5 KO) landed 47% of her power punches (221 of 470).
It was the most difficult fight of Mayer's career in her first planned main event. Before the fight, her coach, Al Mitchell, told her it would be her best fight -- and her most difficult.
"This is what boxing needs more of, the men and women fighting like these two young ladies did tonight," Mitchell said on ESPN.
Friday night was a showcase for women's boxing between one of its emerging stars in Mayer and one of its strongest punchers in Hamadouche. Hamadouche appeared to land the more powerful and clearer shots early -- including 22 of 89 punches in the first round and a combined 43 of 144 punches in the first two.
The first two rounds seemed to be the strongest of the night for Hamadouche, ESPN's No. 3-ranked junior lightweight who traveled from France for the unification bout. Mayer found her range and, it seemed, her comfort in the third round and by the final four rounds appeared in control, landing combinations to Hamadouche's head along with continually landing body shots throughout the 10-round contest.
Mayer said she believed she had this type of fight in her.
"I knew it was in me, yeah," Mayer said. "But honestly, I had such a good camp. I wasn't breathing heavy going into each round. I was very cool, calm and collected and seeing more. Really, I had a lot of reaction, but I was able to slow things down and see things.
"You guys might have seen it close because she was the busier fighter, but the game plan wasn't to match her punches. I was shifting and digging the harder shots."
After the fight, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, who represents Hamadouche, said he believed it was a much closer fight than what the scorecards indicated.
"When you got people in the ring saying it was one of the best female fights I've ever seen, which it was, how can you score a fight 100-90 or give her one round or two rounds in the fight? It was crazy," Hearn said. "Massive respect to both. We're all trying to push the female side of the sport, and they deserve to get this platform.
"It's just disappointing that Hamadouche didn't get the credit she deserved, and everyone is going to talk about the scorecards now rather than the tremendous spectacle that we just saw."
Hearn said there should be more accountability for judges -- Lisa Giampa had the 100-90 scorecard, Max DeLuca the 99-91 card and Tim Cheatham the 98-92 card -- but he added that is an issue that's "a global pandemic" and they have issues in England too.
The two other champions in the division, WBC champion Terri Harper and WBA titlist Hyun Mi Choi, are promoted by Hearn. Hearn said Choi has signed a contract to fight Harper in a unification fight.
Hearn said he sees Mayer and Harper as the eventual fight for the undisputed title and that "we're on the way" to that possibility in the future.
After the fight, Mayer said she wants to continue to have big matchups, which has been a continual statement and plan for her since the start of 2021. She said she had been waiting for a fight like Hamadouche her whole career. After beating her, she took another leap forward in her career Friday night.
"This is everything I trained for," Mayer said. "It really hasn't even sunk in yet, but I'm proud of what I did. I'm proud of my team. We're going to celebrate this one, for sure."