Given the competition from Game 3 of the Giants-Tigers World Series, it's doubtful that the entire Fillmore showed up to Karim Mayfield's long-anticipated HBO bout with Riverside boxer Mauricio Herrera. But there were enough San Franciscans gathered around the ring in Verona, New York, to commandeer the ambiance, if not the action.
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