VIRGIL HUNTER INTERVIEW: PART 2
The voice of Virgil Hunter sounds as though it could solve many problems. Calming, reassuring and slightly hypnotic it would not be out of place on self help tapes. What’s your fear? Is there something you want to quit? Then talk to Virgil.
In the shape of Amir Khan, there stands a 26 year old still looking for the right formula and the right trainer for consistent success. Defeats interrupt any fighter’s career but catastrophic losses, such as the Brit has suffered, leave more fear than hope.
Breidis Prescott was a somewhat farcical crisis one. Danny Garcia was the second crisis that led the light welterweight to part ways with go to guy, Freddie Roach who had solved the problems in patches. Hunter believes the answers are simple but the road back a lengthier one than Khan might anticipate.
“Before he came to me I felt that he didn’t have an understanding of boxing, the mental make up is what needs to be worked on,” said Hunter a few days before Khan was due to meet up with him.
“An understanding will iron out the mistakes. There has to be an understanding of the sport. When to, when not to, how, why and executing a strategy.
“Amir has the physical attributes. He’s incredible in that aspect. The hand speed, the combinations are quite extraordinary. So physically he’s there. The mental make up will catch up on the physical.”
When asked where he saw his new addition’s place amongst the sport’s big players, Hunter’s answer was spoken with the realism that the fighter himself may have to accept if he is to have a long term future in the sport.
“He’s right there at the surface of the a-league. He’s willing to take on a-league competition and that is an upside. He has fought, defeated and lost to fighters who have scratched at the a-league surface.”
Khan is not the only fighter to seek Hunter out for his services. The Kings Boxing Gym in Oakland has now opened its doors to diverse talents such as Alfredo Angulo, Mike Dallas, Karim Mayfield and Fernando Guerrero who challenges WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin in April.
Character and desire are just some of the traits that Hunter will insist on should he and any other potential new recruit choose to work together. What he gives, he expects back. When one of his team enters the ring, he not only expects them to fight but he demands a sacrifice and the appetite to improve on what they already have.
“Right now my stable is as lethal as any other in the world. But to be in it you gotta have the right character and it has to be the right fit. This is a stable where they will all benefit from each other. Each guy offers a different thing and when they’re all in the gym it’s a beautiful thing to see. We’re all working towards being number one.”
And in Andre Ward, the leader of the Hunter pack, he has crafted a super middleweight who looks untouchable for the time being. His future may lie against men such as Gennady Golovkin rising up a division for a lip licking fight that HBO are slowly rubbing their hands about. Or there may be a venture north to 175lbs where its number one, Chad Dawson, has already been outwitted and outclassed by Ward at 168lbs.
But even though we are only 26 fights and nine years into Ward’s professional career, the internet isn’t shy these days of asking about who would win a fantasy fight between the American and one of the division’s most recent kings, Joe Calzaghe.
Reviewing my notes, I had checked to make sure I hadn’t asked about the topic but Hunter wanted to discuss the matter and the comparisons that are made between both men.
“We’re always getting the Calzaghe comparison. For me, that situation is about where the fighters are after so many fights. Andre fought Mikkel Kessler after 21 fights. Calzaghe fought him with 44 fights. If you want comparisons then do it from fights 21 to 26. Andre has fought and beat Dawson, Bika, Froch, Kessler, Abraham and Allan Green.
“Who had Joe fought, an old past his best Chris Eubank? Joe went to the A-league late. He’d beat a lot of B-league fighters. He never got demanding fights. He only knocked out B-league fighters. We’ve been in the A-league a while now but Andre is still a puppy. When he gets to over 30 fights you’ll all realise how good he is.”
Virgil Hunter doesn’t seem to attract the media’s attention nor does he particularly go looking for it but when he gets going he has you hooked. Spontaneous in conversation, Hunter happily answered the questions asked and then raise his own topics of conversation. An interviewer’s dream if ever there was one.
His view of the sport’s current condition is similar to those spoken by many a fan across the world. The best are not fighting the best. A disease that lies deep in our sport. The individuals blocking these fights bring out a pinch of anger in his voice but when discussing the subject it was some of the fighters he pointed the blame at too.
“I can remember a story about Fernando Vargas. After so many fights and so many easy opponents he got angry and confronted his promoter and said: “You don’t think I’m good enough?”
“When fighters say ‘I leave it to my promoter’ - it’s not, it’s up to you. Some of these guys have skirts that they hide behind. I say skirts because it’s symbolic of some people in the game today.”
And Hunter wasn’t shy to touch on the matter of performance enhancing drugs either.
“There’s a lack of interest to cut down in the whole PEDS thing. Someone is gonna get killed. For this to be taken even more serious than it is someone is gonna have to die. They need to quit playing around. There are big names out there that need to come forward for the good of the sport.”
Hunter has three decades in boxing which now see him at the pinnacle of it. Under his guidance he possesses a boxing superstar and now a young Brit looking to play catch up once again. Others will flock, the reputation of both gym and trainer will no doubt enhance even more. The attention of it all pleases Hunter because he knows his men are doing something right. He though is uncomfortable with the plaudits that come his way.
“I’m very uncomfortable with compliments. I get stopped in the street a lot these days. The same people that say you’re unbeatable and unbelievable are the same that will tear you down. It’s about the fighter anyway; he’s the one that’s putting his life on the line. He’s the one that’s happy to fight in any way, whatever it takes. Others are just self seeking.
“These days you can be known for just one fight. We’re at the highest level. It doesn’t take long for a persona to change when the cameras are there. It can be intoxicating if you don’t jump on it and get a hold of it straight away. I stay grounded. The bible says that the meek will inherit the earth, not the weak.”