By Ryan Maquiñana
Karim Mayfield’s career isn’t hanging by a thread yet, but at age 33, the seamstress’ spool is getting thinner by the second.
After a promising 18-0-1 start to his career that included wins over Francisco Santana (twice), Steve Forbes and Mauricio Herrera, the San Francisco native suffered consecutive defeats against Thomas Dulorme and Emmanuel Taylor in 2014 to push him out of the junior welterweight title picture.
As a result, Mayfield is going back to basics with a homecoming headliner Saturday night against Michael Balasi at the Longshoremen’s Hall in Fisherman’s Wharf.
“I’m going back to the style that made me 18-0,” Mayfield said. “It was more of a mugging style. A little more Hank Armstrong … I still need to keep that bull in me. I think in my last fight I boxed too much.
“Well, it’s back to the bull now.”
The 140-pound contender nicknamed “The Hard Hitta” sat down with BoxingScene.com and discussed the Balasi fight -- as well as how Russian brawler du jour Ruslan Provodnikov is his ultimate target to attaining relevance in the sport.
BoxingScene.com: Let’s start with the proverbial camp question. How’s that been going?
Karim Mayfield: Camp’s going good. I’ve been here in the Bay Area at a couple gyms, and I’ve been training with Ben Bautista.
BoxingScene.com: What about Virgil Hunter? Is he still training you in some capacity?
Karim Mayfield: Virgil is always there in my camp. He’s more of a mentor and offering advice when necessary.
BoxingScene.com: You’re coming off a couple tough defeats to Thomas Dulorme and recently, to Emmanuel Taylor. What did you take from those fights, especially the loss to Taylor where you had him on the canvas but couldn’t finish the job?
Karim Mayfield: It’s always disappointing anytime you prepare to win and you get the “L.” It was a close fight. Eventually I want to redeem that loss. Felt good with the KD. I wasn’t whupped at all. I wasn’t dominated at all. I never showed at any point I shouldn’t be in with a guy like that, so it’s back to business to get in the winning flow.
BoxingScene.com: When you haven’t lost in 19 pro bouts then suffer back-to-back losses in less than a year, how has that made you reflect on these fights from both a technical and mental standpoint?
Karim Mayfield: Yes, it’s both technical and mental. Mentally there’s no more losing. It’s not an option anymore. Technically, overall I feel like maybe I did a few things in camp I neglected. I substituted running for doing the StairMaster.
I had some time off and now I have so much to prove. I didn’t feel like I was outclassed. I feel like I could’ve won the Taylor fight if I had a better game plan. What I learned is that I’m going back to the style that made me 18-0. It was more of a mugging style. It means a little more Hank Armstrong, a little more stressing.
As for people who don’t like my style, it’s different strokes with different folks. I still need to keep that bull in me. I think I boxed (Taylor) too much. I would move a whole lot instead of holding my ground. Not anymore.
BoxingScene.com: So what improvements have you harped on for Balasi? I think it was pretty clear that opponents are wary of your heavy right hand, but your left jab and hook to the body were not consistent enough to keep them honest lately.
Karim Mayfield: I’ve been working on my left hand, but this is a southpaw. I still want to show my left hand. One thing is that I need to straighten that thing out. I went back to fights when I fought for the NABO title against Patrick Lopez. I went back to watching that fight and know that I have to keep using that jab and left hook a lot, and just sharpen my hands on both ends. You will definitely see the left hook for more.
BoxingScene.com: How frustrating is it to see Mauricio Herrera, who you beat clearly on HBO, score two title shots? I thought he beat Danny Garcia, and now he gets Jose Benavidez Jr. for a vacant interim belt next month.
Karim Mayfield: It’s not frustrating. I actually commend him for what he’s done against Danny Garcia. Knowing that I beat him, and knowing that he beat (Ruslan) Provodnikov, just overall I think after a couple more wins in the Mo’ Betta Entertainment banner, they’ll be calling my name.
Actually, I got an offer to fight Provodnikov. We were ready to fight and they went with Jose Luis Castillo. Now with two more losses on my record, maybe people will think I’m less of a threat and that will work in my favor so I can get some fights.
BoxingScene.com: How much vocal do you think you need to be to score a fight of that magnitude next?
Karim Mayfield: I would definitely want Provodnikov. It’s the type of fight that if I win, it can change my whole career. And I know I can win. He’s got power, but I know I can stand in with him with my style and win. Look at the guys I’ve beaten.
In fact, a few years ago, they flew me out to spar with him in L.A., but for some reason, they had me sparring other guys and I never got to spar. They kept saying tomorrow. They kept saying tomorrow. So when I asked his trainer what the deal was, his trainer says, you’re kind of -- you’re weird. So I never sparred him that camp. I was getting paid not to spar him.
It’s always been like that. I’ve never had anything handed to me. My friend was saying the other day that I should be called “The Hard Way” instead of “The Hard Hitta” because of that.
BoxingScene.com: You’re coming home to fight in San Francisco for the first time in four years, and it’s almost sold out. Tell me about the buildup to the event since you’ve been training here.
Karim Mayfield: There’s definitely a buzz from The City. Last time the Giants had won the World Series, I won an NABF (eliminator). With the Giants winning again this time, and everything looking swell and my brother LaRon promoting the show. He’s been doing everything with Osric Pratt of O.P.P. Promotions to make this happen.
It really is a homegrown event by local promoters, so come out and support. We have some good amateurs and pros. I’m really excited about the event. I haven’t been home in a while but it’s time to give them a show.
BoxingScene.com: Are you feeling any pressure to veer away from your game plan and playing to the crowd?
Karim Mayfield: There’ll be a whole lot of local Bay Area celebrities. E-40 is sponsoring the show. Sage the Gemini’s going to be performing live. There’s going to be some pressure to perform, but you know what they say. Pressure makes diamonds.
Ryan Maquiñana is the Boxing Insider at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and the Editor-in-Chief of Norcalboxing.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @RMaq28 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.