Virgil Hunter Interview (mostly about Ward Froch and Kessler)
AS ANDRE WARD CONTINUES TO RECOVER FROM SHOULDER SURGERY, HIS TRAINER VIRGIL HUNTER SPOKE TO LIVEFIGHT, IN THE FIRST OF A TWO PART INTERVIEW, ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP, WARD’S CAREER SO FAR AND THE UPCOMING REMATCH BETWEEN CARL FROCH AND MIKKEL KESSLER.
Virgil Hunter has been placed with two very different challenges in the months and years ahead, the first being to develop and control the continued domination of Andre Ward at 168lbs and beyond. Since his arrival in the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic in 2009, flawless has best described the Californian’s progress in those four years.
The other sees the management of a second rehabilitation programme for Amir Khan. Once, the world was at his feet. Twice it has crumbled beneath him. Despite the new team scoring one win already (against Carlos Molina) fragility surrounds the Brit’s long term future.
The Hunter-Ward relationship was born in the early 90s and is as close as it was way back when the potential of the American superstar was witnessed at just eleven years old.
“He was a special talent from that point, no doubt. His ring IQ was already there, all he had to make sure was that the drive was still there. And it’s still there every day,” said Hunter when speaking over the phone from America.
The art of hitting and not getting hit was what Andre’s father, Frank, wanted for his son. Although he passed away in 2002, the young Ward would not be without such a crucial parental figure in his life. That role, as well as being elected godfather, would be bestowed upon Hunter. A responsibility that has filled him with pride ever since. A crucial balance has been found however between being guardian and trainer. As Hunter explains, he can ‘let him go when it comes to boxing.’
“Andre went into the most important fight of his career against [Carl] Froch with a broken hand. We got on with it. We got that hand wrapped up and told him to go out and win the fight. In a situation like that, he’s experienced for something like that not to affect him.
“I’m his godfather and yes it goes deeper than just being his coach, I’m the father in his life. He’s like a son to me. It’s been life long and it’ll carry on that way for the rest of our lives. But I can separate myself from being his coach and the father figure.”
Andre, known as ‘Son of God’, has things right in his life according to Hunter: God
first and family second. Each man does not beg for the spotlight. Their words are as effective as their work. What you see is what you get. Shouting from the rooftops can be saved for others. A natural love for the fight game is what exists. Expectations are high and expectations have been delivered.
“Everything that he’s done so far is what we’ve expected of him. The boxing world hasn’t seen what he’s really capable of but those days are coming so everything so far has been pretty much expected,” said Hunter when giving an assessment of Ward’s career to date.
“We’ve only seen about 70% of what Andre can do and in no way is he the complete product. It’s a shame he got the hand injury before the Froch fight because we were intent on stopping him. We were intent on stopping [Arthur] Abraham too but the referee was all wrong in that fight. Again that was another dominant performance; he’s proven he’s the best at super middleweight.”
Every test that has been thrown his way has been passed by Ward, a look around shows very little by way of a genuine threat to the 28 year old. Business at super middleweight has been taken care of. Opposition is now thin on the ground. Revisiting former foes may prove to be the only choice in the next 12 to 18 months. Frustration enters Hunter’s voice when the matter is discussed. The now cancelled fight with Kelly Pavlik was “deserved” as much as a Yusaf Mack fight was for Froch, according to him.
“A fight with Pavlik would’ve been a tougher fight than Mack but at least Carl’s paid his dues.”
Hunter now sees a once hungry pack that looked to teach his young buck a thing or two shying away from a man seemingly unbeatable.
“It’s kinda funny. He holds plenty of belts; he’s the pound for pound number two fighter and no-one wants to fight him! There’s nobody anxious out there to fight him. If he’d lost then that’s a different situation. Other fighters know now. When he was coming up, they were saying he hadn’t been tested, he hadn’t been pushed and there had been no dog fight. They were all thinking when do we go and get him? They best be thinking long and hard because he’s getting better and stronger all the time,” warned Hunter.
Despite the subjects of Froch and Kessler, their rematch in London on May 25th certainly has Hunter’s attention. He believes his own man is on another planet to these two A-list members of the world scene. And who can blame him? Both were outclassed in their trips to America during the Super Six. Both returned with their tails between their legs. Two and four years on, respectively, and a lot has changed for two of the sport’s most violent fighters.
“Carl’s boxing has emerged recently. Mikkel hasn’t really done anything since he was injured. He’s not beaten anyone. Carl demolished [Lucian] Bute at least,” said Hunter when discussing one of the year’s most eagerly awaited fights.
“The Froch-Kessler rematch is a train wreck of a fight,” he continued.
“But let me tell you now, no matter how much these guys say how tough they are or how they sell it no-one likes to get hit. It’s a fight for fans who like collisions, cars falling off buildings because there won’t be too much skill involved. I’m definitely going to watch, I might even personally show up!”
And Hunter had this message for whichever man has their hand raised at the end.
“We’re hoping that these European cry babies will step up to the plate or keep his [Ward] name out of their mouths. I don’t expect Kessler to step up. I’d like Andre to knock Kessler out because in the first fight he battered him without doing that. Froch has a bit more guts than Kessler. And if Froch beats Kessler we expect them to want to fight us before he looks at going into retirement. And if he does then we can sit down and talk.”
IN THE SECOND AND FINAL PART OF THIS INTERVIEW, HUNTER DISCUSSES THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF HIS LATEST ADDITION AMIR KHAN, DEALING WITH THE SPOTLIGHT AND WARD VS. CALZAGHE!
he seems to have a fair bit more respect for Froch than Kessler, expects a rematch to be made if Froch wins (even though he called them both cry babies!)
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Interesting comments. Apparently there is a little animosity towards Kessler.
I look forward to part 2 and what he has to say about Amir Khan.
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Why don't these loudmouth idiots Hunter and Andre 'Son of Sven Ottke' Ward stop mouthing off to the press, and do their talking in the ring? I cant' stand idiots like these two who go out of their way to disrespect other fighters behind a microphone, have a bit of dignity and class. Ward has done nothing of note since the Froch fight, and beating up a drained LHW means nothing
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.”
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everything ward and hunter said about kessler and froch is in response to them talking **** about ward. kessler in particular. in fact kessler has been talking **** ever since ward beat him 4 years ago!
but at the same time he refuses to fight ward again, its all just talk to keep his name out there while hes fighting tomato cans. hunter is right to be upset and everything he says is spot on. they (froch & kessler) both ran their mouths, they have both been cry babies about their losses. as long as they step up and fight ward again thats alright though, froch will do just that, kessler wont.
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Hunter is pretty disrespectful to Khan's previous coaches with his talk, they will have a good laugh if Khan gets stopped again.
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