Every fighter who steps into the ring tends to have one goal in mind: to be the best that ever was. As we all know, this tends to be a task much easier said than done. Throughout history fighters have answered the call to greatness, but even more have come seen their careers come crashing down along with the hype-train that once carried them along.
One such prospect who still trying to tap into that potential greatness is junior welterweight puncher, Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield (17-0-1, 10 knockouts). After a nearly year-long layoff, Mayfield has proven to be hungrier than ever as he has been seen publicly calling out fighters like Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, and even Adrien Broner.
A sad fact that Karim has finally come to terms with however is that the boxing game is no longer controlled by the fighters or the fans, but by the major promotions that back individual fighters. With an out-going personality and obvious talent it only seemed logical that a fighter like Mayfield would be picked up by a major promotional company. That major promotional company turned out to be Top Rank, and what many fans and writers saw as a surprise, Mayfield saw as overdue.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve normally been that opponent that these big promoters were calling [to face their fighters], but nevertheless I’m now in the driver’s seat for the most part. I’ve been out here in Vegas, grinding, and getting some good, world-class type sparring down here.”
As good as this news is for Mayfield, a few questions arise with his decision to sign to Top Rank. One of the more interesting questions concerns the ability,or inability, of Top Rank to properly promote a(n) African American fighter. It’s a point that has become a topic of debate ever since Timothy Bradley signed to them and is still relatively obscure to the public rather than a proven force a-la Mayweather or Pacquiao. This stigma is often further fueled by Floyd Mayweather’s decision to leave Top Rank earlier in his career.
“ I definitely see the point of concern considering there are a lot of African-American fighters who don’t really seem to have the country following them. If anything, they’ll have a city or a hood, and a hood isn’t much more than people trying to sneak in or get free tickets. That being said, I think I’m definitely very different. For one thing, I’m a very outgoing guy and I feel like I literally have the whole (San Francisco) Bay area behind me.
“For example, there was one fight I had against Steve Forbes where there was only three weeks of promotion, and we still managed to have three thousand people show up. With that being said, we had Andre Ward fighting a week before us so people were telling us that we shouldn’t do that because Ward was fighting for a title and people had already bought tickets. We felt we had our own fans also, and we ended up pulling in three thousand people. So I don’t have just a city, but instead I have the whole region behind me as opposed to a guy like Timothy Bradley who doesn’t really have many followers. Desert Springs is a ghost town, and you really do need to have people that are genuinely behind you.”
“You also don’t hear him too much as far as being outgoing and doing other things, and he’s just not really out there like that. That plays a major part, and like I said, Nonito Donaire and I had a show and we managed to sell it out solely based on our popularity in the Bay area. I do a whole lot in the community, and I really do stay in the streets as far as giving back and that really does help a lot.”
The next set concerns that followed his signing to Top Rank concerned his public call outs of fighters like Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse. Although both are at the top of the junior welterweight division, there is no ignoring the fact that they are both Golden Boy fighters; and with the promotional wars between Top Rank and Golden Boy it’s doubtful that Karim will ever get a chance to either fighter in the near future. It’s this type of sobering thought that leads one to wonder if Mayfield knew what he was getting into. Still, one can’t help but admire his optimism.
“Yeah, [I understand] for the most part. There’s talk though, and I’ve heard it through the grape vine, that if [Top Rank] can show how [profitable] Pacquiao is in China, and how his performance is against Brandon (Rios), then it may be feasible to get that fight with Floyd (Mayweather). Shit, that’d be some business together right there. Anything is possible and [Golden Boy and Top Rank] have done things in the past, albeit several years back, but it’s still a possibility. Now, I still think Top Rank has got some cool names on its roster, like (Juan Manuel) Marquez, (Brandon) Rios, (Mike) Alvarado, and (Terence) Crawford, so they have a pretty cool line-up.”
As solid as Top Ranks stable of welterweights is, there is no denying that Golden Boy seems to have all of the best junior and full-fledged welterweights under their roster. With a determination to fight the best at whatever cost, what was it that ultimately led Mayfield to go with Top Rank?
“You’d think with all the fighters they have at 140 I’d be willing to go to them, but Golden Boy never did me any favors. The only time they ever called me was as an opponent. Every time they called it’d be with a two week notice, and that was the only type of opportunity they’d offer me. When Top Rank came knocking on my door I figured it was just about time I seized the moment.”
Mayfield certainly seized the moment and is now set to fight on the undercard of the Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Bryan Vera card taking place in Sept. 28th. Although widely regarded as a “tune-up” or “Stay busy” type of fight, Mayfield is well aware of the opportunities that will follow an impressive showing. With Top Rank’s fairly shallow stable of 140 lb. fighters however, would Mayfield be willing to give or gain a few pounds if it meant landing a big fight? With fighters like Ruslan Provodnikov and Timothy Bradley being two of the most recent examples, this fluctuation in weight has proven to be a trend amongst Top Rank signees.
“Honestly, I think you should be campaigning (a weightclass). For me, my last four fights have all been at 140 lbs., and the rest of my career was at 147 lbs. Now if you were jumping up to something like 154 lbs., I think that may be a bit too much if you’ve been campaigning between 140 and 147 lbs. for so long. A guy like Garcia was just walking at 150 lbs. yesterday, and I think Lucas (Matthysse) is around 146 lbs. We tend to hover around that area, give or take a few pounds, so I don’t think the fluctuation in weight would be too much. Now if I’m asked to go down to 135 lbs., then that’d probably be too much, and if I fought up at 154 lbs. it’d probably be the same thing. When it comes around to being 5 or 7 pounds, I don’t think it’d be too much.”
Although some may still criticize him as raw, no one can deny the hunger and sheer competitiveness Mayfield brings to the table on his journey to fight the best the sport has to offer. With the layoff behind him and a fight date in front of him, one can’t help but look ahead and see what the future holds for Mayfield. Will the rumored bout against Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 knockouts) on the undercard of Pacquiao vs. Rios? Can Mayfield be the next great American force with Top Rank now backing him?
“Hopefully, if all things go right, I’m looking to fight once again in November, perhaps on the Manny Pacquiao card. It’s looking like I’ll be fighting twice this year, but hopefully 2014 will be a better year. Maybe something will happen where we can do a “Golden-Rank”, not a Golden Boy or Top Rank, but a “Golden-Rank” fight if the fans request it, or even the managers. I just know that I’ll be ready for any of these guys, for sure. ”
So while Karim Mayfield is preparing to take control of his future, all we as fans have left to do is watch it all unfold.
Be sure to check out the full audio of the Karim Mayfield interview as well as other interviews from Tha’ Boxing Voice Radio: http://thaboxingvoice.cogito24.com/daniel-geale-vs-darren-barker-plus-karim-mayfield/17552