On Tuesday, HBO announced that veteran Karim Mayfield would step in as a late replacement for Ray Robinson, to face undefeated welterweight Dmitry Mikhaylenko as the co-main event for Sergey Kovalev’s rematch with Jean Pascal on January 30 in Montreal.
Mayfield recorded the best win of his career in October 2012, scoring an unanimous decision over Mauricio Herrera. At the time, Mayfield was undefeated and looked like a good bet to become a future world champion at 140 pounds. But Mayfield lost a competitive, though ultimately decisive, unanimous decision to Thomas Dulorme in March 2014. He followed that loss with another one to Emmanuel Taylor in July 2014. Mayfield beat 10-5 Michael Balasi in November 2014 and then took all of 2015 off.
A lay-off of a year is a long one in boxing, especially for a fighter in his mid-30s. But this is a high-profile opportunity, so Mayfield is right to jump on it. If he can knock off an undefeated fighter on the first HBO card of the year, he’ll be positioning himself well for good things later in 2016.
Karim Mayfield’s resume is that of a second-tier contender. He’s an established, world-class talent, but clearly in a gatekeeper position at this point. That makes him an interesting opponent for a fighter like Mikhaylenko, who beat Sechew Powell and Ronald Cruz in 2014. His last time out, Mikhaylenko looked very impressive, stopping Johan Perez by Round 8 TKO last August. Those are all decent wins, but if Mayfield is able to show up in his top form, he should be a notch above anybody else Mikhaylenko has faced to date.
Mikhaylenko shares a manager with Kovalev and the fact that he was quick to take a tough substitute like Mayfield indicates that he understands what kind of opportunity he has in this fight. Fighters from Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Bloc have become an increasingly big part of the boxing picture in recent years. This fight could let Mikhaylenko establish his own place on the scene.