Mayfield's dormancy quickly ceased. His June knockout of Forbes earned him $10,000. And, on Oct. 1, he stepped into the ring with Lopez for $11,000 and a belt.

This was a fight of the sort fans savor — and anyone with a vested interest in either boxer dreads. Mayfield and Lopez damaged one another in Tunica; such bouts add miles to a fighter's odometer. Lopez repeatedly charged forward, rarely even moving laterally in his aggressive style. Against an opponent with a heavy right hand, this ensured a long, brutal evening. "It was freakin' barbaric," recalls Mayfield. Between exchanges of brutally powerful combos and extended sessions of "thugging" — at one point the clinching boxers tumbled to the canvas — both fighters opened up bleeding welts above the other's eye. This would be a profitable evening for area dry-cleaners: Lopez and Mayfield sprayed the ringside crowd with blood, sweat, and saliva, dousing referee Randy Phillips in the process. "By the 10th round, you could see blood clots coming out of his mouth," LaRon Mayfield said of Lopez. "It looked like meat." Those souvenirs sailed into the stands and Lopez thundered to the canvas — his third trip to the supine position. Each time he would come up fighting, but it was Mayfield's night. The San Franciscan was declared the winner by unanimous decision via scores of 99-88, 97-90, and 98-90. Mayfield's dream is alive — bloodied and beaten, but ever so much alive.


Sweat billows off Ben Bautista's bald head. In one week's time, he'll be celebrating in Mississippi. But today the trainer and athlete are alone in a darkened gym — even the dog cage stands empty. With a pair of mitts strapped to his hands, Bautista leads Mayfield on an orbit around the room, like waltz partners, working out the strategy that will floor El Elegante in Tunica. First a couple of enticingly slow left jabs to lure the aggressive Lopez close — then a rapid barrage of short punches to catch him walking in. "Show 'em the candy. Show 'em the candy," hisses Bautista. "Lopez makes mistakes. He drops his hands. You make him come, he gonna come. Show 'em the candy!"

“Guru” Ken Watson lends Karim Mayfield a hand.
Kelly Nicolaisen
“Guru” Ken Watson lends Karim Mayfield a hand.
The boxer burns off the calories with an infrared treatment.
Kelly Nicolaisen
The boxer burns off the calories with an infrared treatment.

Mayfield's subsequent victory moved him into the world top-10 rankings at junior welterweight, qualifying him to land a championship shot. But he still walks a tightrope. Each step forward brings him only incrementally closer to success. But a fall — well, it's a long way down. Prosperity, meanwhile, could complicate the heartfelt, informal agreements between Mayfield and the many people pulling for him. Bautista has trained him largely without compensation. His managers — brother LaRon and childhood friend Marlon Sullivan — have never taken a cut of his winnings. Guru Ken Watson only started getting gas money over the summer. Karim is given "family rates" — that is, gratis — for yoga; "athlete rates" — again free — by Victor Conte; and "friend rates" at the infrared salon. His wife Shanda, brother LaRon, and others have kept the family solvent thus far. "More money, more problems," he says with a smile. But those problems are, he notes, the best-case scenario.

Long after Bautista has left, Mayfield is still at work in the gym. He eventually gathers his things and locks up the place — he has his own set of keys — and descends onto Seventh and Market. He hops into his car and heads off to parts unknown, a man alone with his dreams.

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1 comments
Cassandra Flipper
Cassandra Flipper

A well-written story about an unusally focussed and disciplined young man who has courage, principles and dignity.

 
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