The typical model for athletic excellence calls for an early commitment to his sport of choice. For boxers that means engaging in amateur fights before turning 10, fighting dozens (if not hundreds) of bouts, then turning pro in their late teens or early 20s.
Junior welterweights Karim Mayfield and Mauricio Herrera took the road less traveled, for both turned professional in their mid- to late-20s yet advanced to the point where they've succeeded in challenging fights against opponents with deeper backgrounds. On Saturday they face each other in their first HBO-televised fight and the question of who will prevail is an intriguing one. The answer to that query may be found in their CompuBox histories, which revealed the following:
Winning Ugly: The unbeaten Mayfield utilizes a physically demanding style that viewers often find difficult to watch. Mayfield lunges in, pushes his opponents back and wrestles them on the inside, which effectively mitigates the 5-7 Mayfield's height disadvantage.
Because of all the grappling Mayfield's output suffers. The typical welterweight throws 58.3 punches per round but in his last three fights against Steve Forbes (KO 10), Patrick Lopez (W 10) and Raymond Serrano (KO 5), Mayfield averaged 49.3, 44.8 and 44.6 respectively. For a time he wasn't especially accurate, for while the average welterweight lands 38.9 percent of his total punches Mayfield landed 33 percent against Forbes and 35 percent against Lopez. The good news for Mayfield is that against Serrano, who at 18-0 was his best young opponent to date and his most recent opponent, he landed 45 percent overall and 48 percent of his power shots. The "Hard Hitta" also needs to be a sharp one if he wants to beat Herrera.
Herrera the Punching Machine: Herrera's style is unusual, for while he throws an incredible number of punches he still operates as a boxing-oriented counter puncher who is tougher to hit than the typical volume guy.
In his Fight of the Year quality war against Mike Alvarado (L 10), Herrera averaged 96.8 punches per round, of which 66.7 (69 percent) were power punches while against Mike Dallas Jr. (KO 7) the numbers were 78.2, 60.5 and 77.4 percent. But for all the risk he assumed, Herrera was hit by just 35.8 percent of Alvarado's 119.9 punches per round and 31.7 percent of Dallas' 60.6 per round. He also tasted 41.8 percent of Alvarado's power shots and 36 percent of Dallas', respectable given the frenetic environment.
If Herrera is seeking a statistical blueprint, he may look back at his victory over the previously unbeaten Ruslan Provodnikov. He averaged 76 punches per round (more than the 58.3 division norm) but his punch distribution was much better -- 39.7 power punches per round versus 36.7 jabs, a 52-48 split in favor of power punches. Given Mayfield's tendency for lunging in, Herrera would be wise to adopt a long-range game that will keep his opponent guessing as to which kind of punch he will throw next.
Prediction: While Mayfield's knockout win over Serrano was impressive, Herrera has fought better competition as of late, for three of his last four opponents -- Provodnikov, Dallas Jr. and Alvarado -- carried a combined 66-1-1 record and Herrera went 2-for-3 against them. Meanwhile Mayfield's last three foes were a respectable 73-13 but Lopez (two straight) and Forbes (six of nine) were on losing streaks by the time he met them.
Herrera's facial tissues could be a huge negative factor for the Mexican, for he suffered horrible swellings against Alvarado and Provodnikov. That could be mitigated by two factors; (1) Mayfield is a clubbing puncher and not a stiletto-sharp one and (2) Mayfield's below-average output.
Herrera has more ways to win for he has proven he can fight either at long range or trade viciously on the inside. So far Mayfield has fought only one way -- the John Ruiz way, with much faster hands. The guess here is that Herrera's versatility and superior top-flight experience will lead to a decision victory.