The fight was over, except that it wasn't
ALBANY — It was one of the most peculiar cheers I’ve heard at a sporting event. Ray Serrano was applauded vigorously for his courage, for getting up off the stool and standing there waiting for the inevitable punishment and damage that everyone in the building knew was only going to take seconds to administer.
The crowd at the Times Union Center applauded vigorously, but there was a clear moment of hesitation, a bit of a gasp, even, borne of uncertainty and astonishment. No one, including Serrano’s opponent Karim Mayfield ... well, not even his own corner, which was unprepared for Serrano’s wobbly walk over after the bell ... expected him to keep fighting.
Just as the bell sounded to end the fourth round, Serrano walked face first into a crushing right, the punch accelerated by the opposing directions of Serrano’s face and Mayfield’s fist. The 22-year-old Serrano, competing for the NABO junior welterweight belt against a much more experienced opponent, had only been knocked down twice in his previous 18 pro fights, all victories, and one of them he considered to be more of a slip than a true knockdown.
Against Mayfield, Serrano was dropped hard just 25 seconds into the third round, and with over a minute left, resorted to hugging and tackling Mayfield just to survive the round. By then, it wasn’t a matter of if, but of how soon.
“I caught him with a great shot that put him down,” Mayfield said. “That normally should’ve put a lot of guys out. He shouldn’t have got up from that, because I caught him flush and the way he went down.”
“What I was saying to my team is he’s a pit bull. Their mentality is to always keep going, and it has nothing to do with fighting, it has to do with the mentality of going. If you run with them, they’re going to run hard. If they’re on a rope, they’re going to shake hard. My corner warned me not to do anything reckless. They told me to stay composed, I kept coming out with my jab, stayed composed and it would open up shots, I would see shots. A minute wasn’t long enough to recover from a shot like that.”
Mayfield stayed composed, but “I was also thinking I need to put the pedal to the metal.”
Serrano actually tagged Mayfield with a good shot in the fourth, so Mayfield went back to the more methodical style that his corner had urged, and by the end of the fourth, the fight-ending punch was set up. A confluence of circumstances, not the least of which was Serrano’s incomprehensible determination, prolonged the official end of the fight.
Mayfield landed his big shot at the bell, and everyone believed it to be over. Serrano went down hard, but was saved by the bell, then barely made it to his corner, where his guys scrambled to find the stool while Serrano stood there dazed. The confusion bought him just enough more time beyond the allotted one minute to show the necessary recovery to be allowed to fight.
He didn’t do much of that, though, taking his punishment before hitting the deck again 33 seconds into the fifth. The official time of the TKO was :47.
The whole scenario thrust Mayfield into the unenviable position of contemplating his opponent’s misery, and his professional obligation to make it worse as quickly and emphatically as possible. When the bell rang, he was as ruthless as he had to be, but until that moment, while he waited for the fifth round to start, he admitted to a moment of humanity.
“After the first knockdown, in my mind, I’m a prizefighter, and I still have a humble nature, I still have mercy in my heart and I was thinking, the way he went down, he’s only 22, I don’t want to have to go out and finish a guy like that,” Mayfield said. “Honestly, when I was in that corner, I was thinking, man, this dude is 22, don’t just send this guy out there, he’s done.”
“But he wasn’t done, his heart was there. I don’t want to say nothing like that. But as in, physically, he was a little wobbly. Nevertheless, I thought, don’t send this guy out there, because I’m coming out to finish the job. They knew he was a game opponent, so I guess they wanted to give him another chance. Don’t send him back out there, and I had to go do what I had to do. Once they say go again, the mercy stops.”