Mayfield is still throwin’ big punches

The loud voice sent a chill up Karim Mayfield’s spine.

The rising boxer was at USF preparing to take a training swim recently when a former high school classmate recognized him and called out his name.

“I just heard ‘Hey, Karim! I’m happy to see you’re still alive,’” Mayfield recalled. “At first, I was bothered by it. But when I thought about all the people I know from my environment that have died, I could kind of understand it. I was bold and a lot of people that are bold get killed.”

Mayfield is still bold, but the 26-year-old native of The City’s Western Addition neighborhood has matured into a caring husband and father of three who now saves his bursts of aggression for the ring. The 5-foot-7, 147-pound junior middleweight is 4-0-1 since turning pro a little more than a year ago and will battle an opponent to be determined tonight at 7:30 as part of the Fight Night at the Tank series at San Jose’s HP Pavilion.

“I’m really proud of Karim for how far he’s come,” said Ben Bautista, Mayfield’s trainer. “He works so hard to stay on top of his game and he’s a great family man who gives so much back to the community.”

Bautista met Mayfield through a boxing program he was running in the Western Addition and Fillmore designed to deter at-risk youth from gangs and drugs. Mayfield had already earned a reputation as a tenacious fighter on the street even as a kid, unafraid to settle small disputes with his fists.</p>

“I had a mouth back then,” Mayfield said. “And I couldn’t call my big brother because he was the same size as me. So I ended up fighting some bigger guys and knocking them down. There are noweight classes on the streets.”

The charismatic “Hard Hitta” started taking boxing seriously after graduating from Ida B. Wells High School in 1998 and refined his natural ability throughout a stellar 41-6 amateur career that included a title at the 2006 California Golden Gloves. He says the sport turned from hobby to focused passion early in 2001 after best friend Dustin Thomas was murdered.

“That’s when I really stopped hanging [out on the street],” Mayfield said. “I really wasn’t doing anything but wasting time.”

Now Mayfield is based at Straight Forward Club Boxing and trains up to three times a day, incorporating traditional boxing workouts such as running and sparring with yoga and swimming. He lives with wife Shonda and their children in Daly City and serves as a role model on his frequent visits to his old neighborhood.

And he lives for his next knockout.

“[Knocking someone out] feels like jumping across the roof of two buildings and making it,” Mayfield said. “Even though you had the confidence you could do it, you’re still entering into the theater of the unknown. And once you do it, it’s just like, ‘Let’s go do it again.’”

Fight Night at the Tank

» WHERE: HP Pavilion

» WHEN: Today, 7:30 p.m.

» SCHEDULED BOUTS: Jose Celaya (Salinas) 29-3, 15 KOs vs. Steve Walker (Hannibal, Mo.) 21-15, 15 KOs; Chuy Rodriguez (Salinas) 15-2, 15 KOs vs. Priest Smalls (San Diego) 18-14-1, 6 KOs; Eloy Perez (Salinas) 8-0, 1 KO vs. Odilon Rivera (Los Angeles), 5-12-3, 3 KOs; Karim Mayfield (San Francisco) 4-0-1, 4 KOs vs. TBA; Rudolf Louis (Oakland) 2-1, 0 KOs vs. Joseph Jones (Lancaster) 0-0; Tony Hirsch (Oakland) 2-0, 1 KO vs. Doug Lilly (Bakersfield), 1-4, 1 KO

» TICKETS: Range in price from $25 to $95 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (408) 998-8497, (415) 421-8497 or (510) 625-8497.

melliser@examiner.com

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