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Michael Hunter credits Wladimir Klitschko for drive to make 2012 Olympics
Hunter credits Klitschko for drive to make 2012 Olympics
Michael Hunter sat in the gloom of his pallor by himself, watching the parade of 2008 Olympic athletes representing the United States walk across his TV screen.
Emotions tore through him when he saw the faces of his U.S. boxing teammates, chief among them being regret. He should have been there in Beijing, China, he thought.
Maybe it’s why the trip to London means more to Hunter, the 2012 U.S. heavyweight on the American boxing team, than possibly anyone else on the squad. Because in 2008, he never got that chance, suffering from a 10-3 points loss to Venezuela’s Jose Payares in the super heavyweight semifinals of the Americas qualifier in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
A two-time national super heavyweight champion, Hunter was pressured to turn pro, although he wanted to give the 2012 London games a chance. Hunter’s team went to Europe and he was a sparring partner for RING heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in preparation for his fights against Eddie Chambers and David Haye.
It’s the sparring against Klitschko, the 1996 Olympic gold medal winner, that Hunter credits with improving the fighter he was four years ago. After one session, Klitschko pulled Hunter aside and spoke to him about the importance of winning an Olympic gold medal.
Hunter has slimmed down, dropping to heavyweight, which in Olympic boxing is a 201-pound limit. He also comes armed with the seasoning he gained from who he calls the greatest heavyweight sparring partner in the world.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster for me, and I learned a lot sparring against Wladimir,” Hunter said. “I don’t think anyone I face in the Olympics will have too many things that will give me a surprise. My concern is to stay focused and have fun. I was able to hang in there against the best heavyweight in the word, and I had a different attitude.
“What else new can I see? There is no one in the world better than that man. Wladimir and me really clicked. He saw a fire me in similar to himself and one day we were talking and he told me when he got the gold medal, and how his life was never the same. He expressed that to me and how much of a big thing that was. He told me to keep pushing.”