By Jake Donovan
The upcoming welterweight showdown between Amir Khan and Devon Alexander is an interesting pairing, one that has been in the works for more than a year. When the two collide this Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, there will also be another battle taking place—one between their respective cornermen, Virgil Hunter and Kevin Cunningham.
Khan and Hunter will be working together for the fourth time heading into this weekend’s bout, while Alexander has spent his entire boxing life under Cunningham’s tutelage. Neither side is viewed as having the advantage in terms of chemistry, especially as well as Hunter and Cunningham know each other. The two formed a friendship from when they both first began training fighters, and continue to respect the other’s work to this very day.
Come Saturday evening, one will have to outthink the other, although neither will take it personal.
“Kevin and I knew years ago when we were developing fighters from scratch… we knew these days were coming,” Hunter says of the realization of one day facing Cunningham in the opposite corner. “There’s always a measuring stick in this sport. Devon Alexander is a tremendous measuring stick. It will never be personal. We have to block it out, and we have to tend to the business at hand.”
Both equally respect the other and what they’ve accomplished in the sport. Cunningham has also successfully guided Cory Spinks to title reigns in two weight classes, including the World lineal welterweight champion early in the 2000’s. Hunter is best known for guiding 2004 Olympic Gold medalist Andre Ward to the top of the super middleweight heap, where he remains although having not fought for more than a year.
Alexander (26-2, 14KOs) is now a full year removed from his 14-month stay as a welterweight titlist, although the St. Louis native insists the best is yet to come. Questions remain whether Khan – a former 140 lb. titlist who moved up to welterweight earlier this year – can reclaim past glory when he was hailed as one of the very best fighters in the world.
The Alexander side is certainly expecting that version on Saturday. Unlike his counterpart, Cunningham sees an added incentive in his fighter scoring a win.
“We prepared for Amir Khan, the best Amir Khan that can show up on Saturday. He looks improved since he’s hooked up with Virgil Hunter,” Cunningham says, giving his friend and colleague full respect—with a twist. “The fact that Virgil Hunter is his trainer and that Virgil is also a good friend of mine, it really gets my juices going.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox