Karim Mayfield Perseveres Through Ups and Downs, Makes HBO Debut Saturday Night

It has been a long road for San Francisco's Karim Mayfield, but Saturday night, at age 31, the junior welterweight contender makes his HBO debut in an intriguing matchup with fellow Californian Mauricio Herrera of Lake Elsinore in southern California.

The two were initially slated to meet in an ESPN2 televised bout back in mid-August, but injuries to both fighters derailed that fight from taking place in Mayfield's hometown. Herrera was hurting from a back injury, and before a replacement opponent could be found, Mayfield injured his hand, forcing a cancellation of the card.

Though Mayfield is undoubtedly bummed that this fight will take place on the East Coast rather than in front of fans that have been following him since he was a standout amateur, both Mayfield and Herrera will now earn considerably improved upon purses. This is the San Franciscan's second straight fight in New York, having impressively starched a then-unbeaten Raymond Serrano on ESPN2 back in May of this year.

There was a question whether or not Mayfield would ever reach this point, though talent was never a factor. A six-year pro, Mayfield's career was plagued by inactivity up until recently. He's never fought more than four times in a calendar year and never caught on with a big name promoter, despite knocking off three of their prospects in the span of a year and a half.

In October 2007, Mayfield knocked out a 5-0 Don King prospect named Rahman Yusubov in two rounds. Five months later, Mayfield earned a razor-thin split-decision over Goossen-Tutor promoted Francisco Santana, who was 8-0 at the time.

Two bouts and just shy of a year later, Mayfield would get off the canvas to drop 8-0 Mario Lozano twice in order to earn a unanimous decision. Lozano had just won a tournament in Mexico and was being showcased by Golden Boy Promotions.

On three separate occasions, Mayfield was brought in to lose yet he somehow came away with victories. For the Lozano fight, it was on the undercard of a HBO tripleheader headlined by James Kirkland against Joel Julio that also featured Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz in separate bouts. For a lot of southern California writers who had made the trip, it was the first time they were getting a look at Mayfield.

After Lozano went down for the first time in round 4 after having put Mayfield on the canvas, not every writer was convinced of Mayfield's prospect bona fides.

From that point that Mayfield got a reputation as being an awkward power puncher with not much of a ceiling, in part based on that showing. But at that point in his career, Mayfield had been fighting at a disadvantage. Now a 140 pounder, Mayfield fought his first 15 bouts weighing in at least 146 pounds, sometimes closer to the junior middleweight limit of 154.

The first Santana fight was a close one that really could have gone either way. Santana got a rematch on an Andre Ward undercard in 2009 at a weight friendlier to Santana, 151 pounds, and Mayfield went out and broke his opponent down before beautifully discombobulating him against the ropes for a 5th round TKO.

Mayfield, who has become known for his swagger and personality, immediately broke into what looked to be a rehearsed victory dance as referee Dan Stell saved Santana from further punishment. But Mayfield's days of theatrics go back a ways.

The first Santana bout took place back in 2008, during the end of social networking site MySpace's heyday. Mayfield trolled Santana's profile for weeks leading up the fight, sending hilariously threatening messages before getting in Santana's face at the weigh-in prior to the fight.

Mayfield played psychological games with many other opponents, but aside from that, he was a student of the game who learned everything he could about his opponent. Mayfield was always in search of footage on a potential opponent, even before a fight was signed, and would often have a game plan in mind after just a few days of surveying how his opponent fights.

While some fighters famously don't watch any tape, such as future Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Mayfield always found value in exploring his opponents' tendencies.

As intelligent as Mayfield has proven to be in terms of ring IQ, there were moments where he was his own worst enemy. At a weigh-in for the first Santana fight, Mayfield and his team were late, much to the dismay of the promoter of record.

For a fight with unheralded but lanky 5'11” welterweight Trenton Titsworth, Mayfield showed up weighing 152 when the contract weight was considerably lower, which was not Mayfield's oversight, but apparently that of his manager at the time Jackie Kallen's. Titsworth had to be greased a few extra dollars for the fight to move forward, which obviously also didn't make the show's promoter of record Goossen too thrilled.

Another unlucky moment in the early career of Mayfield was for a fight against Joshua Renteria in August 2009 in Tucson, Ariz. It was a nationally televised card on ESPN2 with Mayfield's bout being a swing bout. Unbeaten prospects Keith Thurman, Seth Mitchell, and Deontay Wilder all scored quick stoppages in squash matches before Vivian Harris met Noe Bolanos in the main event.

Harris-Bolano would end frighteningly early as Harris suffered a bad headbutt that caused him to be taken out of the ring on a stretcher. Mayfield's fight with Renteria was teased as being next, and it was an opportunity for the Bay Area native to make his national TV debut.

Unfortunately, only one ambulance was on site, and per the rules, the card couldn't continue until it had returned from taking Harris to the hospital. Therefore, Mayfield's fight never made television, though 15rounds.com's Bart Barry noted that it was the most entertaining fight of the night. Mayfield prevailed by unanimous decision, but only those in attendance bore witness to it.

Mayfield later tested the waters with Reno-based promoter Let's Get It On Promotions, headed by Terry and Tommy Lane, the sons of famed referee Mills. Mayfield decided against signing a deal prior to his lone appearance in Reno where he fought Mario Ramos at 150 pounds.

Ramos was an extremely tough opponent to look good against, and look good is what Mayfield didn't do, winning a majority decision. The deal was dead with Let's Get It On and Mayfield had to again start from scratch.

Mayfield would follow that up by bringing live boxing to San Francisco for the first time in a decade, stopping unheralded journeyman Sergio Joel De La Torre in five rounds. Mayfield's brother LaRon co-promoted, and it was on this card he established himself a local draw as he was the only recognizable name on a card that drew considerably well.

From that point, Mayfield's career took off. Free from Kallen, he signed on with Mississippi based Prize Fight Promotions, who had gotten Shawn Porter and Lanard Lane a couple of televised dates.

In his first fight under the Prize Fight banner, Mayfield would stop veteran former titleholder Steve Forbes in a June 2011 ESPN2 co-feature. Though the fight was ugly, Mayfield would be the first to say he stopped Forbes, who had been in with a number of high profile names, including Oscar De La Hoya.

Mayfield's junior welterweight debut came later that year as he dropped Patrick Lopez a handful of times en route to a 10-round decision win. Most recently, he stopped an unbeaten Raymond Serrano in New York.

Now his opportunity to fight on a premium network is finally here and the Mayfield-Serrano fight is the one most people are buzzing about on this card. For how difficult of a road it took for Mayfield to get here, don't be surprised if he puts on a show.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.