For a boxer who is undefeated in 16 pro bouts, San Francisco's own Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield has grown remarkably adept at searching out silver linings. For example, his next opponent, Philadelphia's Raymond Serrano, is 18-0 and, at age 22, nine years Mayfield's junior.
No matter. "If anything, he hasn't come into his man-strength yet," says Mayfield, with a laugh, of his opponent on ESPN's May 18 edition of Friday Night Fights. "But he'll be facing a full-on, grown man."
Mayfield — whose undefeated yet unfulfilled boxing career was the subject of an SF Weekly cover story last summer — hasn't punched his way into the promised land yet. After soundly beating Patrick Lopez in October to claim the WBO NABO Junior Welterweight belt, familiar patterns re-merged in his career. Opponents, he says, backed out of fights, leaving Mayfield to spend his days in the gym, "strengthening my strengths."
Every win only moves Mayfield incrementally further toward the light at the end of the tunnel — but every loss is a potential train. At 31 years old, Mayfield doesn't have eons left to make his mark on the most unforgiving of sports.
The Serrano fight, which will be held far from friends and family in Albany, N.Y., is another rung on Mayfield's ladder to a title shot — a ladder with an undetermined number of rungs. The purse is only in the "low five figures." But Mayfield is focusing on bigger things. This is his first appearance in an ESPN main event. And, he continues, with a win on Friday, and maybe one or two more, "I should be there. People will say, 'Let's see what he does against an elite opponent.'"
In the meantime, however, "there" is the Hayward guest home of his trainer, Virgil Hunter — a longtime Mayfield backer best known for training undefeated Oakland champion Andre Ward. Mayfield has been bunking in a "camp setting" with his trainer for the past two months. He's only seen his wife and three kids via Skype. It's boxing first and foremost from dawn until dusk. Will it pay off? Mayfield is confident of it. "I see myself with my hands raised, bringing my title back to the city," he says. "I'm gonna give the fans what they want to see."