Any kid would have been nervous.
Just climbing into the ring for his first real bout should have been enough, but Schenectady’s Nasir Mayfield also was stepping through the ropes for a National Silver Gloves championship bout in Independence, Mo., far from home and surrounded by hundreds of strangers.
“I sparred a lot, but I was still nervous to get in the ring surrounded by mad people, yelling stuff at me,” Mayfield said. “I had to zone them out and listen to coach. That was real hard. All those lights, and there was mad people. I was nervous.”
He mastered his anxiety, though, and won a decision over Steveuon Fowler from Arkansas to claim the championship in the 12- to 13-year-old division’s heavyweight class.
The tournament was held Jan. 30-Feb. 2, just about six months after Mayfield, now 14, started training with Vincent Kittle at the gym in Crosstown Plaza. Fowler was taller and heavier than Mayfield — whose tale of the tape puts him at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds — and he had a longer reach than Mayfield.
“I used my jabs, I’d get in close, I stalked him to the corner and hit him with body shots,” Mayfield said. “The first 30-second round, I got an eight-count on him from hitting him with body shots. I stalked him, got him in the corner. I stayed away from his jabs because his arms are longer than mine. I was just trying to get inside of him and hit him in the body.”
Mayfield’s nerves weren’t the only thing he had to control in the fight. He found out early in his training that he had a temper that needed to be kept in check.
“I got angry quick,” Mayfield said. “Now I have a little more control over it, but when I first started and I got punched in the face a good time, I got mad. In the beginning, my stamina wasn’t up, so I couldn’t go that long. So I was going in there trying not to get hit hard and trying to keep my temper down, because I got mad quick.”
Mayfield started boxing as a means of cross-training for basketball, and because his younger brother Khalik was trying it out, and Nasir wanted to see what it was all about.
Before long, he was picking up on the training quickly and fell in love with the sport.
Because he was stronger than many of his peers, though, Kittle had to pit him against older boxers.
“We had to start putting him in there with some of our adult boxers, and even some of them had a very hard time with Nasir,” Kittle said. “With that experience of going against bigger, stronger men at
13 years old, it made Nasir a triple-threat to any 13-, 14- or 15-year-old that he might match up with.”
Kittle enjoys having a youngster who is so coachable. He had another just a few years ago — Trevor Bryan, another heavyweight, who trained with Kittle from eighth grade until he turned pro.
Kittle likened Mayfield’s work ethic to that of Bryan.
“I’ve seen it, and I know, and Nasir has all the same qualities,” Kittle said. “The willingness to do the hard work. The intelligence to be able to understand not only what you’re telling him, but to be able to figure out why you’re telling him to use that particular approach. He understands he has advantages and he has disadvantages.
“He knows he can hit hard, but if he keeps going out back and turning over those tractor tires we have, he’ll hit harder.”
Local fans may get a chance to see Mayfield in action this month. Schenectady Youth Boxing & Fitness Inc., will present a card April 20 at Schenectady High School, and Kittle said he’d like to get Mayfield a bout there.
Mayfield also is aiming for the Junior Olympic regionals at Lake Placid from May 25-27 to earn a spot at the national tournament in Mobile, Ala., in late June.
He’ll be stepping up an age group, and he’ll be working on improving his speed. It’s a welcome challenge for Mayfield, who won’t settle for good enough.
“It’s a great feeling when all that hard work actually pays off, but I’m not done yet,” Mayfield said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m not at my full potential yet. This was just the beginning.”