Top Rank's COVID-19 testing scrutinized as Mikaela Mayer calls her result a false positive

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

LAS VEGAS — No one was more shocked when Mikaela Mayer tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday — three days before her planned super featherweight fight at the MGM Grand Conference Center against Helen Joseph — than Mayer herself.

The 2016 U.S. Olympian felt perfectly fine and not only was asymptomatic, but had passed a test in Houston on May 29. Her COVID-19 test was negative, but the antibody test she did was positive. That meant she had come into contact with someone who had it and developed antibodies to defend against it.

Her scheduled fight Tuesday against Joseph is the second time in less than three months that she had a fight canceled at the last minute. She was supposed to fight on St. Patrick’s Day in New York at Madison Square Garden, but the card was canceled days before because of the coronavirus outbreak.

She’s now gone through the expense of two training camps without being paid. She told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that she wished there had been the ability in Top Rank’s testing protocol to retest her.

She pointed out that one of her coaches, Al Mitchell, lived with her for two weeks and he tested negative. Her lead trainer, Kay Koroma, is also Shakur Stevenson’s trainer, but the Nevada Athletic Commission ordered him to leave the bubble because of his contact with Mayer, so he won’t be in Stevenson’s corner on Tuesday.

“Obviously, this is new to everyone and we know the testing isn’t perfect,” she said. “It’s a shame I didn’t get a second test, because I believe this to be a false positive. I put so much work in to get ready for this fight and to show my progress and it really is difficult again to have this happen.

“I’m going right now [in Colorado Springs] to a drive-through testing facility and I’m willing to bet I’ll be negative. It’s hard to understand this.”

Boxer Mikaela Mayer prepares for her super featherweight fight against Lizbeth Crespo at MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 15, 2019, in Las Vegas. Mayer beat Crespo by unanimous decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Top Rank president Todd duBoef said he was sympathetic to Mayer and wishes he had the ability to deviate from the established protocol. Top Rank developed its testing procedures in conjunction with the Nevada Athletic Commission.

He said he is supportive of Mayer and would discuss with the commission the idea of testing a person a second time upon a positive to make certain.

“She probably has a valid point and we’re open to all of that,” duBoef said. “In coming up with this protocol, we worked with the regulators and we kind of had to go by the book. This is all new territory and we’re working our way through it the best we can. I get that there can be false positives or errors and I think she is right to want to have a way to verify. But we worked on this with the commission, the MGM and ESPN and we can’t really make an exception at this point. But it’s something we’re definitely going to look at and talk about.”

Mayer’s manager, George Ruiz, has been in discussions already with duBoef about getting her onto one of the Top Rank shows in July.

Mayer peaked for Tuesday, and is hopeful the work she put in won’t go to waste.

“As soon as I’ve been cleared, I’m going to go back into training and hopefully salvage this work I have done,” she said.

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