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March 11, 2013

By Rob Soucy

The sport of women's boxing does not make headlines the way it used to in the early to mid-2000's. Female boxers are now clearly in the shadows of their MMA counterparts and the sport has fewer stars than it used to have.  However, women's boxing had a few years of relevance when the top female boxers were frequently fighting on television. Names like Laila Ali, Christy Martin, Ann Wolfe, Mia St. John, Lucia Rijker, Jackie Frazier, and Elena Reid were fairly successful at keeping women's boxing alive. Today, most boxing fans would be hard pressed to name even a couple of active female fighters.

Mikayla “MK Ultra” Nebel doesn’t have a recognizable name, any magazine covers to her credit, or even a boxing promoter to push her career. What she does have is an extreme dedication to the sport, a pretty face, and most importantly, some good boxing skills. Unfortunately for Nebel, boxing promoters are becoming less and less interested in promoting female fighters unless they bring something other than skills to the table.  Boxing is a business as much as it is a sport, therefore, female boxers must be ticket sellers or be relegated to opponent status. 

Along with her friend and trainer Russel Nyggemyer, who is a pro fighter himself, Nebel owns and operates a gym in Columbus, Ohio called Sweet Science Boxing and Fitness. Nebel spends her days and nights training many boxers, male and female, pro and amateur. “Russel originally founded the gym and I became a managing partner,” said Nebel. “The sport of boxing is my life and I want to be fighting for many more years.”

The 21 year-old Nebel turned pro in 2012 after winning all seven of her amateur fights. The diminutive Columbus, Ohio native campaigns as a super bantamweight (122 pounds) and has been trained by Nyggemyer since turning pro. "I am self managed and boxing is my life," explained Nebel. "I live in an apartment above my gym, sometimes I'll workout at 1 am because I am extremely dedicated to this sport."

Nebel has fought four times in 11 months as a pro, losing a four-round unanimous decision in each bout. "I have fought in my opponent’s backyard every time and the result is the same," said Nebel. I felt I did enough to win each fight but the only round that I have won on the judge’s scorecards is the round they were forced to give me."

Nebel speaks of her third pro fight in which she went to New York City to face local favorite Heather Hardy who was making her pro debut. Hardy was allowed to fight after weighing in two pounds over the contract limit, which gave her an  advantage in the ring. In the first round, Nebel dominated Hardy and landed a picture perfect straight right hand on her opponent’s chin that dropped her hard. Hardy was able to make it to her feet and finish the round but it looked as though she was overmatched. However, over the next three rounds, Hardy used her weight and strength advantage to push Nebel around. The rounds were close but Hardy was the busier fighter and eked out a decision win.

Last Friday night at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, Nebel fought undefeated local favorite Shelito Vincent. Apparently, days prior to the fight Vincent’s camp asked that the contract weight be changed from 122 to 124 lbs as they felt their fighter wouldn't be able to make weight. Nebel, not wanting to lose out on a decent payday and opportunity, conceded the two lbs. Then just minutes before the fight, Nebel was notified that the length of the bout was being changed from a six rounder to a four rounder. “That threw me off,” said Nebel. “I was prepared to go six rounds. It takes me a round or two before I really get settled in the fight. I knew I would have to stop her in order to win in her backyard and I needed those last two rounds.” Nebel fought well and despite having some moments lost the fight 40-36 on all three of the judge’s scorecards. ( scored the fight 38-37 for Vincent).

Nebel’s pro record stands at 0-4, which suggests she may want to look for a different career... but that thought hasn't crossed her mind, nor should it. Her last three opponents have never lost a fight and today have a combined record of 14-0.  Nebel says that she feels like an undefeated fighter and is as good as any of her prior opponents. After seeing her last fight live and having watched two of her fights online, I tend to agree and find it hard to believe that she has yet to win a fight. But then again, in boxing, there is a difference between winning a fight and getting the decision from the judges.

Style wise, Nebel is a boxer/puncher with good hand speed, head movement, and footwork. She has never been on the canvas nor has she ever been hurt in the ring. With a total of only 11 amateur and pro fights combined, Nebel is surprisingly a very technically sound fighter. She works behind a good jab, throws straight punches, and rolls her shoulder defensively.  She still needs to grow as a boxer, as she can be outworked and has a tendency to go straight back making her easier to hit.

As a boxing columnist I have never been compelled to write a story featuring a female boxer. Quite frankly, it's been years since I've had the interest or the patience to sit through and watch an entire boxing match between females. However, Nebel has won me over with her in-ring style and out of ring character.  After about 10 minutes of conversation, she had me believing in her wholeheartedly! In the span of two nights I gained a ton of respect and admiration for this young lady as a fighter and as a person. One day soon Mikayla Nebel will get her first “official” professional win. I have never met a boxer more deserving and I just hope I am there to see it.

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