April 15, 2013

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers - Karim Mayfield

Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield
By Terry Strawson - Karim Mayfield was born in San Francisco, California on December 14, 1980. He is undefeated in 18 professional fights, with 10 of his victories coming inside the distance, and he is now the #1 ranked contender to the WBO junior welterweight title held by Mike Alvarado. His position atop those alphabet ratings becomes all the more impressive when you consider his late introduction to boxing.

"There was a gym that had opened up just a few blocks up from where I used to hang out with my friends. A friend of mine told me I should go check it out. I wasn't  even interested in boxing but one day I strolled over there and checked it out. I was 20 years old."

Despite not showing interest in boxing during his youth, the now 32-year-old Mayfield was certainly no stranger to fighting. The standard for settling disputes whilst growing up was some good old-fashioned fisticuffs. During an enjoyable and engaging conversation last weekend, the charismatic Mayfield (17-0-1) reminisced a little and credited some of his success thus far to his experiences on the street. "Most of my fights and my amateur experience came from the streets. I guess that's why I've been so successful in starting off so late because we did have a lot of fights. We fought a lot. I had 28 cousins so we would always fight with the gloves on, or with socks. Five or six pairs of socks on our hands and we would duke it out," said a laughing Mayfield.

His amateur experience, inside the ropes, is more impressive than his late start may suggest. Mayfield managed to chalk up a respectable 40-5 record and came amazingly close to making the 2004 US Olympic Team that was headed for Athens, Greece that summer. "People told me 'you don't even need to try to make the Olympics because guys up there have two hundred fights' and I had only had about twenty at the time but I ended up making it all the way to the Olympic training grounds in Colorado Springs. I actually got a bronze in the Western Finals," recalled Mayfield with pride.

Roy Jones compares Mayfield to Mike Tyson
As a fighter, Mayfield is a beast. At a glance, his approach can appear ungainly but a closer look conveys craft and experience beyond his approximately 60 fights, both amateur and professional. His attack, at its best, is varied and explosive - bordering on frightening. At his worst he can become predictable and trigger-happy with his powerful right hand. His drive and determination are only rivaled by his athleticism and natural ability. Compared by Roy Jones Jr. to Mike Tyson, he delivers his thunderous right hand with the worst of intentions and his uppercuts and hooks are compact and crisp when utilized.

"I definitely have a tremendous right hand and I'm working on setting it up a bit more as opposed to just throwing it. People can say 'well, he only has a right hand' but could you handle it? I mean, it's only two hands that everyone has, it's not like everybody got seven and I only have one, everybody only has two, so I'm halfway there," joked Mayfield.

His professional debut came in 2006 against Chris Mickle (1-0-1) on the undercard of a Robert Guerrero fight at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, CA. "It was in my hometown which was great and it was on a great card, Robert 'The Ghost' Guerrero was on it, Anthony Dirrell and Andre Dirrell were on it. It was just an explosive night and everybody got a knockout. It was like my coming out party. Definitely a good look for me and the Bay Area," recalled Mayfield.

Mayfield throws the right hand
Mayfield's however, has not been guided carefully by one of the major promoters in boxing. Early in his professional career, Mayfield was brought in to provide challenges to prospects expected to make the grade and each time he prevailed. He was expected to offer up a stern test, yet fail, against Francisco Santana back in 2008 but he ended up being on the right side of a split-decision. A year later, after Santana had won three more fights, his handlers arranged an opportunity for redemption.

Mayfield had other ideas and knocked Santana out in the rematch.

"Hard Hitta," as he is known by his strong following in his native San Francisco, has certainly taken the road less traveled. Mayfield was a sparring partner for world champions Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito long before turning pro. An Olympic alternate after 20 fights, his big break came, not after a big win, but after an impressive sparring session at the world famous Wildcard Gym in Hollywood,CA.

Sparring Pacquiao opened doors for Mayfield
"I didn't get signed until I sparred Manny Pacquiao and when I did good with him in the gym I started getting phone calls. People in the gym were silent, when I had my best day with him it was so quiet, like a ghost town. There are no pats on the back when you do that to the champion. They where whispering 'good job' to me. And literally two days after that, I had a few contracts on my table." According to Mayfield, roving video reporter Elie Sechback was actually contacted by Top Rank in order to remove internet footage from one of his better sessions at the Wildcard.

In 2011, after being inactive for just over a year, Mayfield stepped into the ring against former world champion Steve Forbes (35-9) on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Mayfield was in the ascendancy throughout but relied heavily upon his right hand and his strength in general to suppress the advances of a Steve Forbes in the twilight of his career. "I was in camp when Andre Ward was going to the Olympics and I actually sparred Forbes twice. I saw that I was able to bully him as opposed to boxing him, and he was getting ready for a title fight at the time, but that stuck in my mind."

After wearing Forbes down and eventually stopping him in the 10th and final round, Mayfield went on to challenge Patrick Lopez (20-4) for the vacant WBO NABO light welterweight title. "That was a hard fight. The guy was fucking relentless," said Mayfield. "I actually knocked him down three times and he kept coming back. We head-butted each other in that fight and both got cut. I had blood in my eye for a round, it was tough, he was a southpaw and he threw every punch hard."

Despite dominating Lopez and registering scores of 99-88, 97-90 and 98-90, Mayfield counts the fight as his toughest to date. A young fighter can learn a lot about himself in times of adversity and the extremely tough Mayfield certainly dug deep during that encounter.

His next fight came against Raymond Serrano (18-0) and Mayfield successfully defended his newly won WBO NABO title with a 5th round stoppage. At 16-0-1, Mayfield was primed for his first appearance on HBO and it came against Mauricio Herrera (18-2) in Verona, NY last October. Herrera, who holds victories over Cleotis Pendarvis, Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Dallas Jr, was coming into the fight on the back of what was a spirited yet losing effort against Mike Alvarado. "My mind-set going into that fight was time management. I know this guy throws hundreds of punches and I don't wanna get involved in a slugfest. I don't want to try and match him because I throw every punch hard and don't wanna punch myself out. There are times when I need to be outside, chilling a little bit, and then there are times I need to be going forward but I just wanted to pick him apart."

Mayfield was a Hard Hitta against Herrera
After a fairly ugly start to the contest where Mayfield could not quite find his range, the fight opened up. Herrera, who walked forward constantly, found himself eating some big shots as Mayfield, like the fight itself, opened up and began to offer a variety of offense that Herrera did not seem to have an answer for. Mayfield's right hand repeatedly found the target over the top and his hooks and uppercuts, when thrown, were launched short and furiously to their mark. Mayfield neutralized Herrera and made him appear ordinary en route to a well deserved decision victory.

The win on HBO was certainly the highlight of his career thus far.

So what's next for Mayfield? Well, that's not really clear at this point in time. His #1 ranking in the WBO may not count for much in the immediate future, as the potential rubber-match between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios would surely take precedent over any mandatory obligations. Promoter Gary Shaw told KO Digest that he is "trying to put Mayfield on HBO again" and went on to say that he thinks "Mayfield is a wonderful talent." Although he couldn't comment on potential opponents, Shaw did say that he hopes to have Mayfield in the ring, "June 8th or the first Saturday in August."

Mayfield remains positive and is waiting patiently for that opportunity. He has a solid team that surrounds him including longtime trainer Brian Mciver, his brother LaRon Mayfield (who Karim was adamant I mention to show some gratitude) and now Virgil Hunter who has been apart of his camps on and off from the outset. The "Hard Hitta" is in good hands.

With the junior welterweight division crammed with talent and marquee names such as Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, and Lamont Peterson among others, there are certainly plenty of options. Mayfield's unorthodox style and his incredibly dangerous right hand may present issues when matching him but with such a deep pool to draw potential opponents from, we should expect to see him in an exciting fight sooner rather than later.

Strengths:  Power, conditioning, and unorthodox style
Weaknesses: Raw technique, late start in boxing
Overall Rating: 

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month! 

The author would like to thank Anthony Ross from DaTruthBoxing and BeatTheCount