Less than two weeks after knocking out Richard Carmack in Round 1 on the undercard for Steve Cunningham and Antonio Tarver, heavyweight Travis Kauffman (29-1, 21 KOs) already has another fight scheduled. On September 18, he faces well-travelled journeyman Epifanio Mendoza (41-21-1, 35 KOs) at Claridge Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
There’s solid momentum in the heavyweight division this year, so Kauffman is smart to shoot for a quick turn around after his short night of work earlier this month. Kauffman is a fringe contender at best, and unranked by any of the sanctioning bodies, but he has a solid amateur background and has won fights against legitimate opponents like Vincent Thompson, Chris Koval and Malachy Farrell. His lone career loss came by Round 4 KO in a wild shootout with Tony Grano in 2009.
Kauffman is a native of Reading, Pennsylvania, putting him squarely in the middle of the Northeastern boxing scene. He’ll probably need to beat better opponents than Carmack and Mendoza to earn a title shot, but as a big punching heavyweight who can box a little bit, he should get some decent opportunities so long as he keeps building his record.
Mendoza is the sort of veteran ring warrior whose Boxrec entry makes for intriguing reading. The Columbian native turned professional in 1999 and won the first 16 fights of his career. He was a contender at junior middleweight and middleweight in the early part of this century and held some minor belts in those divisions.
In 2007 he was somehow granted a shot at Chad Dawson’s WBC light heavyweight title, despite having fought in the division just three times, against opponents with losing records, in fights scheduled for just six and eight rounds. Even in the era of alphabet soup shenanigans, this was a flat-out absurd title fight.
During the last eight years of his career, Mendoza has definitely developed into a professional opponent. He’s lost to name fighters like Beibut Shumenov, BJ Flores, Lateef Kayode, Amir Mansour and Luis Ortiz. He’s fought a lot of undefeated guys on their way up, losing by Round 1 KO to 2012 Olympian Dominic Breazeale last December and by Round 5 stoppage to undefeated Trevor Bryan earlier this year.
But I’d have a problem with anybody disparaging him as a “bum” or a “can.” Journeymen like Mendoza are a critical part of the sport. He has the skill and punching power to put in competitive rounds and sometimes win fights in against guys well above his best weight. He’s also provided harsh reality checks to undefeated hopefuls like Carlos Negron (Round 3 TKO in 2011) and Rey Recio (by dominating Eight-round UD in August 2014).
Realistically, though, he’s probably going to get knocked out next month by Kauffman. It’s a very tough way to make a living.