A giant panda, motorcycles, tattoos and Tupac: Meet Silvia Bortot before she takes on Mikaela Mayer

Boxing

Mikaela Mayer is going up in weight class to test the waters for a possible move to the welterweight division. Mayer, a former junior lightweight champion is facing little-known Silvia Bortot in a 10-round junior welterweight bout (142-pound catchweight) in the co-main event of the Liam Smith-Chris Eubank Jr. rematch at AO Arena in Manchester, England on Saturday (ESPN+, 2 p.m. ET).

Mayer (18-1, 5 KOs), of Colorado Springs, won the WBO junior lightweight title in a unanimous decision victory over Ewa Brodnicka in October 2020. She unified the IBF belt by defeating Maiva Hamadouche also by unanimous decision a year later. After a successful defense against Jennifer Han, Mayer lost a split decision to Alycia Baumgardner last October. Mayer moved up to lightweight and beat Lucy Wildheart last April.

“My run at 130 was a ton of fun and something I’m proud of, but it’s time for a new chapter,” Mayer said when Saturday’s fight was officially announced. “It’s time to combine my experience with my size and see what I can accomplish. This fight is at 142 pounds, but 147 is the next hot division in women’s boxing, and that’s where I’m headed.”

At welterweight, the four major titles are divided by Jessica McCaskill, Natasha Jonas, and Sandy Ryan. Mayer told Boxing Social a fight against Jonas makes sense for her.

“I think [Jonas] is the most realistic fight at this time…,” Mayer said. “I think me and Natasha Jonas make for a great fight. I think she’s a game champion and she wants big fights as well at this stage in her career, so I’m hoping we get that done.”

Bortot (11-2-2, 3 KOs), of Italy, is 3-2 with 1 KO in her last five fights, but her victories came against three fighters with a combined record of 19 wins and 110 loses. In May, she lost to Flora Pili by split decision.

“I suffered a bad car accident just before the match in May 2023 and I was [luckily[ almost unharmed,” Bortot told ESPN via e-mail. “After the fight in May I was close to retiring from matches to focus on boxing training and to get a CrossFit Level 1 — another passion of mine.”

Bortot, 38, said she wasn’t able to prepare properly for the fight with Mayer and the short notice.

“I learned about the match less than a month ago, so I prepared myself in this short period,” Bortot said. “Luckily, I was already training to do other competition — not related to boxing — so physically I was fine. Lately I’ve concentrated on boxing, but I haven’t left CrossFit, running and yoga workouts. I also did mountain biking and swimming [ahead of the fight].”

Bortot has always been involved in combat sports, participating in kickboxing and boxing in Italy, Spain, Brazil and Thailand.

Before Bortot meets Mayer on Saturday, her first fight ever to be televised live in the U.S., here’s what you need to know about the challenger:

• Fighting and art: “I have a master’s degree from Universita IUAV, the University of Architecture, design and visual art. I love design and I also work as freelance graphic designer. I love fighting but I also love art, the beauty in all its forms so I usually visit Venice to fill myself with history and wonder.”

• Tattoos: “I love samurai and Japanese culture so much that I have most of my back and arms covered in Japanese-style tattoos. In my tattoos, there is my whole life. They are unique works made especially for me and there are too many stories there to explain them altogether.”

•Sports helped her throughout life: “My childhood, experiencing eating disorders, was not easy but my dedication to sports gave me the right strength to move forward and grow up. Now, as a boxing instructor, I try to give a opportunity of better life to other people through the teaching of boxing. I specialize in 1:1 and group boxing training.”

• Not just combat sports: “In the summer, I ride my KTM 625 [motorcycle] and spend my time at the beach. In my spare time I go surfskating, but I dream about surfing in the ocean in Fuerteventura, [Canary Islands, Spain] my second home.”

• Diet is everything: “I’m getting closer to being vegan and I feel lucky because the food in Italy is very good regardless of the diet you follow.”

•Tupac Shakur: “I’m in love with Tupac [the late American rapper]. I started listening [to] his songs when I was a child and I still do it.

• A favorite animal… sort of: “I live with a two-meter-tall stuffed panda named Carlotta and she lives on my sofa because there aren’t enough space in my bed for both of us. I also have Evaristo, a smaller teddy bear.”

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