This Sunday afternoon (NZ Time) when New Zealand’s Baby Nansen steps into the ring at one of boxing’s most iconic venues, Madison Square Garden, it will be a moment that only a select few fighters get the chance to experience in their careers
Ali–Frazier, Gatti-Rodriguez, and even the infamous Bowe–Golota fight are all part of the incredible legacy of Madison Square Garden.
To fight at the venue dubbed “The Mecca of Boxing” is to walk in the footsteps of the legends of the sport.
The 31-year-old Kiwi will face off against the highly touted American prospect, Mikaela Mayer, in a six-round lightweight contest on the undercard for the heavily anticipated Jorge Linares vs Vasyl Lomachenko clash.
Nansen is the current Professional Boxing Commission of New Zealand (PBCNZ) super lightweight champion and is one of the most recognised female fighters on the local scene.
Nicknamed the “The Pitbull” her boxing record stands at 6-2-1. She also carries with her an extensive kickboxing resume, with 39 fights under her belt and multiple titles won, including the WMC New Zealand and ISKA South Pacific Featherweight titles, along the way.
Based in Auckland, Nansen trains under veteran coach Doug Viney from City Kickboxing, Viney a former K1 kickboxer and Olympic boxer is no stranger to the world stage, and the combined experience of these two should ensure that the occasion of fighting in New York will be an inspiration and not a distraction to her fight preparations.
“Training has been going really well and I definitely trust my coach and trust my training that I am going to be ready to fight,” she said in an interview with CombatTV.
Nansen’s last outing in the ring was September 2017, when she defeated Quinita Hati in an impressive eight-round bout to win the PBCNZ female super lightweight title.
Speaking to Newsie, Nansen says, “I still can’t believe I’m fighting in Madison Square and I’m very excited to get this awesome opportunity to be on the undercard to boxing legends Lomachenko and Linares.”
This unique opportunity could not have come at a better time for Nansen. After years of toiling in the shadows woman’s boxing, has only now begun to emerge from its former obscurity into the light of the mainstream. Networks, promoters, and fans are all starting to look on with great interest at the burgeoning professional scene and the talent within it.
Nansen’s opponent Mayer is a decorated amateur boxer and 2016 Olympian with growing name recognition. Her promoters at Top Rank believe that the undefeated 27-year-old Californian native could be one of the sport’s breakout stars.
After turning professional less than a year ago, Mayer already has four fights under her belt, with three wins coming via KO.
Her assured and confident performances inside the ring coupled with an engaging personality outside of it have seen Top Rank’s CEO Bob Arum, one of the most influential figures in boxing, predict that Mayer will be main eventing a show in 2018.
Mayer. Photo: Beau Ryan
A statement that manager George Ruiz, who has worked with Mayer since 2012, would no doubt endorse.
Commenting to Newsie, Ruiz noted,
“I was surprised when I first met Mikaela. She did not fit the mental profile I had for ‘boxer’. She was incredibly well-spoken, educated, and poised. I immediately knew that if she possessed the right boxing skills, she was going to be a huge star.”
It was Ruiz, in fact who put her in touch with Top Rank, arranging a meeting with the company while Mayer prepared to attend an MMA training camp in Las Vegas.
“We had a multi-year offer from a major MMA organization and Mikaela was seriously considering it. However, I knew boxing was her true passion, so I introduced her to Top Rank's president, Todd duBoef, who shared her goal of raising the profile of women's boxing.“
The inclusion of women’s boxing at London’s 2012 Summer Olympics has seen an influx of fighters including Olympic gold medallists Katie Taylor from Ireland and Claressa Shields from America transition from amateur to professional.
The public name recognition that these fighters bring with them when moving to the pro ranks has helped bring about a positive change in people’s perception of women’s boxing.
Last weekend, on May 6, for the first time in its 45 year history, HBO aired a women’s boxing bout, screening welterweight champion Cecilia Brækhus, the only undisputed champion in boxing, taking on and defeating Kali Reis on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs Vanes Martirosyan.
The sport is yet to see a true global superstar emerge, but it seems only a matter of time before that mantle is taken up by one of the current crop of fighters plying their trade on the world scene.
However, when the bell rings this Sunday thoughts of international stardom will be far from the minds of Nansen and Mayer. The two boxers focus will be only on the task at hand, knowing as they enter the ring that awaiting them is an opponent willing to push the pace right until the last round ends or the referee calls a stoppage.
The bout should make for an exciting and entertaining spectacle, worthy of the legendary venue, as each fighter seeks to add in their own unique stitches to the historic Madison Square Garden tapestry.