Ward, Mayfield out for titles

Their timetables differ, but two undefeated local fighters on the card at Thursday’s Fight Night at the Tank at HP Pavilion expect to deliver a first title belt sooner than a first professional loss.

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward of Oakland, 14-0 with nine knockouts as a super middleweight since turning pro, and former San Francisco Golden Gloves champion Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield, 5-0-1 with five knockouts at light middleweight, highlight the brimming local talent on Thursday’s card, with Mayfield fighting San Jose’s own undefeated Francisco Santana (8-0).

Ward faces Rubin Williams (29-3), a 31-year-old who lost a championship bout to Jeffrey Lacy in 2005 and has fought as many times as Ward’s most recent two opponents combined.

“I think his record speaks for himself,” said Ward, who fought in the Fight Night series a year ago this month, knocking out Julio Jean in three rounds March 29. “He had a title shot, fell short, but he’s got a lot of toughness and that’s what I need right now.”

Ward said he was trying to add a few more pounds to reach 168 before the weigh-in, but said the hard work was over. Ward had reached 176 pounds as a light heavyweight training for the Olympics.

With an unofficial undefeated streak dating back scores of amateur fights fought since he was 14, the 24-year-old Ward said he was growing more and more eager for his own title bout.

“Just as of late, I’ve really just been hungry,” Ward said. “I really envision myself with a belt around my waste, but I’m smart enough to know you got to beat the Rubin Williamses of the division just to be in the picture.”

Williams, who is from Detroit, said through his promoter he considers himself Ward’s toughest challenge as a pro.

Ward said the supposed home-field advantage could be either distraction or fuel for the fight, but that he intended to harness the fuel.

Mayfield said neither he nor Ward is worried who might absorb a loss earlier and said the race really was who would reach a world championship sooner. He added how pleased he was taking part in a card rich with Bay Area blood.

“It helps us a lot to display [our talents] to people who are going to respect [us],” Mayfield said. “The Bay Area is like one nation, you know. I’m looking to light it off for him. Hopefully I get the knockout and just set the floor for [Ward.]”

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