Karim Mayfield, Pro Boxing 'Return to San Francisco.' When Did It Leave?

Categories: Sports
Karim Mayfield wins.jpg
And the winner is ... Karim Mayfield!
Promotional materials for a June 12 evening of fisticuffs at Kezar Pavilion headlined by San Francisco's own Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield jubilantly announce "Pro boxing returns to San Francisco."

This is the first hometown fight for Mayfield, who grew up in the Western Addition -- after all, for pro boxing to "return" to San Francisco, it had to leave at some point. That brings up an interesting question: When, exactly, did San Francisco cease to be a boxing town?

Karim Mayfield hits.jpg
Karim Mayfield, right, gives 'em a right
Back in the days of yore, this city used to be to boxing what it now is to bowls of clam chowder served in hollowed-out sourdough rolls. Jack Johnson -- the first black heavyweight champ, not the musician -- trained at the Cliff House in 1910 prior to knocking out Jim Jeffries, the first of many Great White Hopes. In later years, Rocky Marciano defended his heavyweight title here in 1955, in a fight held at Kezar Pavilion.

Those were the days when the average man on the street certainly knew who the world heavyweight champ was (If you care to make that determination, try to make sense of this list of champs). But now, with fans -- and potential boxers -- instead focusing their attentions on both more conventional sports and combat competitions far more primal than even boxing, "the sweet science" is very much a niche sport. Determining when the last boxing matches were held in San Francisco was not an easy task. We phoned the California State Athletic Commission and asked.

The helpful man on the other end of the line did not have a computer, but instead a sheaf of files (perhaps he had a rotary phone and was working out of a Sacramento supply closet). He was able to confirm there weren't any files in his pile relating to recent state-sanctioned boxing matches in the city. Later, we got a call back from Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs (which oversees the Athletic Commission). He had some answers.

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Karim 'Hard Hitta' Mayfield
Apparently, the June 12 Kezar Pavilion bouts mark the return of pro boxing to San Francisco for the first time since ... last year. A pair of boxing matches were included as undercards on a Mixed Martial Arts event also held at Kezar Pavilion in May of 2009.

And yet, for a night of solely pro boxing -- no barefoot fighters in tiny gloves kicking each other or kneeing one another in the chest -- you'd have to go back to 2004. A trio of lawyers, trying their hand at the fight promotion game, put on a night of boxing at the Longshoreman's Hall near Fisherman's Wharf.

While getting anything done in San Francisco is always an extra chore, that doesn't seem to be the principal reason boxing events aren't held here. More simply, it's just a challenge for promoters to make back the money.

San Francisco fans, however, will probably get to watch hometown hero Mayfield, 29, put on a good show. The 5-foot-8, 147-pound Welterweight is 12-0-1; his opponent, Sergio De La Torre, sports the palooka-like record of 11-13-3. Tickets range from $15 to $75 and can be purchased here.

Mayfield's promoter -- his brother, LaRon Mayfield -- described this as a "tuneup fight" for the undefeated boxer. "All of his fights have been with contenders," says LaRon Mayfield, who graduated from George Washington High along with his brother. "Other big fighters fight bums, then fight hard fights. My brother was the other way around." 

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