Mayfield bounces back for hometown bout

San Francisco’s Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield is ready to live up to his moniker once again.

Bouncing back from consecutive losses, the 33-year-old Mayfield (18-2-1, 11 KOs) is hungry to reemerge as the “Hard Hitta” of old when he faces Michael Balasi in the eight-round welterweight main event of the “Back to Business, War on the Wharf” event from Longshoremen’s Hall at Fisherman’s Wharf Saturday.

Mayfield told SFBay he feels plenty of urgency in his first hometown fight since stopping Sergio Joel De La Torre in the fifth round four years ago:

“This is a blood sport and there’s always urgency and there’s always a do-or-die situation when you’re fighting in the ring. I’ve always taken each fight to be like that as if it was an important fight or if it was a pivotal fight, regardless of the opponent.”

Balasi is 10-5 as a professional and riding a four-fight losing streak – including two via technical knockout last year. Mayfield, though, acknowledges him as a dangerous opponent on the strength of his seven knockout wins.

Once an undefeated prospect whose hard-hitting style made noise among his fellow junior welterweights, Mayfield is hoping to regain the credibility he earned throughout the first seven years of his career.

He sought to make a statement in March during his HBO-televised bout with Puerto Rico’s Thomas Dulorme in Atlantic City, N.J..

But Dulorme used his slick boxing craft to tag Mayfield with jabs and crisp left hooks en route to a 10-round unanimous decision victory.

Mayfield wasn’t severely hurt by any of Dulorme’s best punches, but said Dulorme woke him up with a left hook in the first round that briefly stunned him:

“If you go back to the highlights, you see that I shrugged it off. I kind of shrugged my shoulder like, ‘That wasn’t nothing.’ He hit me with his best shot and I took it. I didn’t fall, I didn’t shake or wobble. He stunned me a little bit, but I was back, you know.”

Mayfield began opening up more following the third round and found a home for his trademark right hand throughout the second half of the fight.

He also successfully pinned Dulorme against the ropes and scraped him with hard shots, but was unable to land the one punch to turn the fight in his favor.

Dulorme’s constant clinching, however, made it very difficult for Mayfield to fully establish his rhythm and execute his game plan.

Dulorme reportedly clinched at least 50 times, though referee Steve Smoger never warned him to cease clinching or even deducted a point, which visibly frustrated Mayfield:

“When I had first seen Steve Smoger in the back with me, I was excited to have him because I know he likes to let you fight out of the clinches. He doesn’t like clinches and he likes to let you fight. For him to have not even warned Dulorme was preposterous. (Dulorme) honestly should have had at least a point taken which would have made him (realize to) not hold … which would have made me implement what I went in there to do.”

Looking back at the fight, Mayfield said he didn’t resort to dirty tactics, though he could have taken steps to keep Dulorme off him and shine light on the excessive clinching:

“I sort of just waited until Smoger broke us up and I should have made us break up ourselves. Even though he held actually well, I should have made it a little more uglier. Even if it was throwing him to the ground, it would have shed more light on his holding.”

Hoping to secure a rematch with Dulorme and also rebound from his first professional loss, Mayfield faced Emmanuel Taylor in Huntington, N.Y. on an episode of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights in July.

Taylor’s efficient hand speed and combination punching ultimately proved the difference throughout the scheduled 10 rounds and earned him the unanimous decision win.

Mayfield appeared to turn things around in the eighth when he knocked Taylor down with a short right hand to the side of the head.

Despite landing a succession of rights to Taylor’s head and body shortly after Taylor beat the count, Mayfield didn’t have enough leg strength to commit to a knockout.

Based on his experiences in his two previous bouts, Mayfield has worked on returning to his bullying style and enhancing his leg strength through jogging and other traditional roadwork as well.

Mayfield’s losses inside the boxing ring have been compounded by some unexpected challenges outside it.

Just days before the Dulorme fight, he received the unexpected news that Marlon Sullivan – his friend and manager – was indicted on federal drug and murder-for-hire charges linked to the scandal involving state Sen. Leland Yee.

Though he was caught off guard by the news, Mayfield said it didn’t affect him in the fight:

“Anytime you’ve got a friend that’s supposed to be there with you and you hear he’s going through some type of turmoil, of course it affects you. But I don’t want to say it bothered me for the fight. I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, you know, I lost the fight because of Marlon Sullivan and his situation.’ But of course, it was on my mind and I was pondering on it.”

Mayfield was also dropped by his promoter Top Rank Boxing shortly after the Dulorme fight. Top Rank offered him a second tune-up fight following his eight-round destruction of Christopher Fernandez last September, but Mayfield was unsatisfied with the lack of high-profile fights he was offered.

As a free agent, Mayfield is now managed by his brother LaRon, who is also promoting the “Back to Business” event through his company Mo’ Betta Entertainment.

But he hopes to one day sign with another renowned boxing promotion such as Main Events (who offered him the opportunity to fight Dulorme) or Golden Boy Promotions to secure a significant, breakout fight that could take his career to the next level:

“Anytime you’ve got a major machine behind you, you get some more opportunities and it looks like those guys are the ones who are pretty much running the networks like Showtime and HBO. Those are the bigger fights and those are the bigger paydays, so I would certainly like to be with one of those. They have all the bigger names around my weight class. If you’re not rocking with them, you’re not rocking at all.”

Despite the losses he’s been dealt in recent months, Mayfield does not feel beaten or outclassed.

By returning to the essence of boxing, he looks to once again wreak havoc amongst his opponents as the Bay Area’s own “Hard Hitta” – which spells trouble for Balasi.

He still hopes to eventually become a world champion, particularly setting his sights on unified WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine 140 lb. champion Danny Garcia.

But for now, Mayfield is focused on leaving Longshoremen’s Hall with his hands raised in victory.

He is also pursuing a few business ventures in hopes of one day establishing himself as a successful entrepreneur outside of boxing.

From his BRAGG (Bridges Reaching a Greater Goal) shoe line to a potential mixtape on the strength of his freestyle talents, it’s a guarantee that you’ll be seeing more of Karim Mayfield in the near future:

“After this event, I’m going to be on a couple of things, man. I’ve got to lay these vocals down. I’ve got to use my creativity a little bit more and exercise it a little bit more.”