Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield Tops Mauricio Herrera, Stays Unbeaten
The omnipresent bellow of "Hard Hitta" -- Mayfield's nickname -- made for incongruous background music, as three commentators strained to deliver point-by-point analysis. If Mayfield's fans thought that sheer enthusiasm might propel the San Francisco slugger to a victory, they weren't disappointed. Mayfield successfully defended his junior welterweight title against challenger Herrera, out-pointing his rival by unanimous decision.
It was a nailbiter by all measures. The fight was a long time coming, originally scheduled for ESPN Friday Night Fights on August 17 at Kezar Pavilion, but postponed because both boxers came down with injuries. The rematch couldn't happen on Mayfield's home turf, but it did allow for a much bigger purse of more than $50,000. That, and the presence of HBO's cameras, made this bout well worth the wait for anyone who had watched Mayfield get shafted by the boxing world's two-tiered class system.
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Since it's completely beholden to Pay-Per-View TV contracts, the sport rewards a small group of celebrities, but relegates most up-and-coming fighters to the periphery. In last year's SF Weekly cover profile of Mayfield, Joe Eskenazi pegged his highest earnings at $11,000 a fight.
Mayfield arrived at New York's Turning Stone Resort Casino buoyed by fan adoration and an entourage at least four deep, but the deck wasn't necessarily stacked in his favor. Herrera, a former plumber and self-taught fighter with a wan scowl that belies his prowess -- he snagged the USBA Lightweight title before moving up to the light welterweight class -- looked a bit more at ease than the anxious Mayfield at the beginning of their 10-round match.
When Mayfield's trainer Virgil Hunter assured the Fillmore-bred slugger he'd come out ahead after round one, it seemed like wishful thinking. Herrera put up a stout defense in the next two rounds, deflecting many of Mayfield's hard overhand rights. But in the second half of the bout, Mayfield took control, delivering powerful right-hand hooks that cut across Herrera's jaw with a conspicuously painful impact. By the end of the fourth round, the challenger's face looked raw and swollen. Mayfield, who played football in high school and has the build of a tailback, seemed composed.
In the end, he won handily, moving his record to 17-0-1. The judge's consensus: He's a born athlete with a powerful overhand and a less-than-perfect delivery. If Mayfield can learn to match each right hook with a left uppercut, then he'll prevail in every match.
On that note, there's hope. The fact that Hunter has taken over Mayfield's corner bodes well for the Fillmore pugilist. Hunter is the powerhouse behind Oakland-born Super Middleweight champ Andre Ward, and former Light Welterweight champ Amir Iqbal Khan. He clearly sees something in Mayfield, which means the rest of us should keep an eye out, too.