The virus had other ideas. And now Mikaela Mayer will go it alone.
Herring tested positive Monday for COVID-19, stripping an ESPN card of a title fight and leaving Mayer as the main event. It was the second cancellation for Herring, who was pulled from a scheduled July 2 fight after becoming sick but had tested negative as late as July 3.
“This result is a complete surprise,” Herring said. “I was fully prepared to make my second title defense tomorrow night.”
Another fighter on the card, Luis Melendez, also tested positive Monday and his fight with Eddie Vazquez was scrapped.
Both Herring and Mayer tested positive for the coronavirus last month, forcing them off boxing cards they were supposed to headline. The two fighters — good friends from their amateur days — subsequently tested negative and were supposed to fight in separate co-mains at the MGM Grand as part of Top Rank’s twice-weekly fights.
It was yet another coronavirus-caused disappointment for Herring, the 130-pound title holder. The former Marine was originally supposed to have a big-money fight against Northern Ireland's Carl Frampton before the virus hit, then sidelined when he got sick while training in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I thought my luck was bad but @jamelherring has got to be the unluckiest guy on the planet,'' Frampton tweeted after Herring's latest positive test was announced. “Rest up Champ.”
Mayer is a different story, an example of why staging sports in the middle of a pandemic is so tricky. The 2016 Olympian was in Las Vegas getting ready to fight on Top Rank’s first card back in early June when she tested positive for COVID-19.
With no symptoms, Mayer wanted another test to make sure it wasn’t a false positive. But the early protocol for the ESPN fights was that once a fighter tested positive, the fight was off.
So Mayer, who is undefeated in 12 fights, got in her car and drove 12 hours home to Colorado, not only losing a fight but a chance to make a statement for women’s boxing at the same time.
“I was so excited because it was the first boxing event back and I knew there was going to be a lot of eyes watching,” she said. “It was a great showcase for women’s boxing, and then I tested positive.”
Mayer thought she might be a false positive because she had tested negative in Houston before she left for Las Vegas. She did, however, test positive at the time for virus antibodies, indicating she had possibly contracted the virus a few months earlier.
“I felt great going into camp and took the test the week before Vegas, so when I got the call I was totally shocked,” she said. “They said there was nothing they could do, so I just had to pack up my stuff and go.”
Mayer said her trainer, former Olympic coach Al Mitchell, and other members of her team all tested negative, something she found significant because they basically live with each other during training.
Mayer hopes to bring some credibility and excitement to women’s boxing. Just telling people she tested positive was unnerving at first, she said, because she felt there might be a stigma attached to it.
“For a second I felt, what kind of backlash am I going to get for this?” she said. “But there was nothing and there shouldn’t be. It’s a crazy virus and we don’t know enough about it. Plenty of people are getting infected and they don’t even know.”