By Keith Idec
Virgil Hunter is one of the biggest reasons Chazz Witherspoon is convinced he’ll fare far better against Seth Mitchell than he did during his last big fight in Atlantic City.
Witherspoon (30-2, 22 KOs) is working with Andre Ward’s trainer for the first time in preparation for his April 28 showdown with Mitchell (24-0-1, 18 KOs), and he is looking forward to showing what Hunter has taught him.
“He’s a brilliant man, a brilliant, brilliant mind, when it comes to boxing,” Witherspoon, 30, said. “And it’s going pretty good. I’m a student. I’m an auditory learner and he’s somebody who knows how to make things make sense. He’s a heck of a strategist and he just has a really brilliant mind, when it comes to boxing.”
Witherspoon will spend a total of about five weeks in the Oakland area training for the Mitchell fight, a 12-round bout that’ll be broadcast from Boardwalk Hall as the opener of an HBO doubleheader that’ll feature a rematch between WBC light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson in the main event. The college-educated Paulsboro, N.J., native’s trip west marked the first time in his seven-year pro career that he went away to training camp.
“It was definitely a blessing that I got with Virgil and got the chance to finally go away to camp,” Witherspoon said. “This is my first time ever being at a camp, getting good sleep, eating correct and training all the time. So everything came together for a reason. I plan on going out there and putting on a good performance.”
Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, part of Witherspoon’s new management team, suggested Witherspoon try training with Hunter. Witherspoon was receptive to the idea because Hunter was someone he always thought about working with.
“The funny thing about Virgil is I had a list of three trainers, that if I ever worked with anybody else, the three guys I would work with, and Virgil’s name is on that list,” Witherspoon said. “The three names were Naazim Richardson, Virgil Hunter and Barry Hunter. Those were the three names I had on the list. Now, that wasn’t in any particular order. That was just the three names I had on my list.
“So when [Norton] mentioned Virgil, I talked to him on the phone. I had met him before because me and [Andre Ward] were roommates back in 2004 in the Olympics [Witherspoon was an alternate on the team]. So I met Virgil back then. And it kind of came together and I came out there.”
Brothers Wade Hinnant and Randy Hinnant trained Witherspoon before he switched to Hunter. Wade Hinnant will work Witherspoon’s corner for the Mitchell fight, but Hunter will be his chief second.
“The way I look at it is people have yet to see me at my best,” Witherspoon said. “I just plan on going out there and putting on my best performance.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.