By Chris Williamson
Guile, smarts and skills overcame brute force as Michael ‘The Bounty’ Hunter won the IBO Inter-continental title by stopping Scotland-based Congolese heavyweight Martin Bakole (now 11-1) with a dramatic tenth round stoppage in the main event at London’s York Hall.
Las Vegas born Hunter, whose sole loss was a 2017 decision reverse to cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk has an experienced voice in his corner in the shape of former wolrld heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and has dramatically announced himself as a heavyweight fringe contender.
The fight was a shootout from the outset with a superb combination from Hunter barely shifting Bakole in the first session.
With the giant Bakole leaning on him one wondered if Hunter’s stamina could stay the course. Bakole looked to land the big finisher right hand, but the smart Hunter was rarely there when he swung it.
By the third stanza the slick Hunter peppered Bakole with combinations, with the adopted Scot looking a step behind the smaller man.
Just as Hunter began to look comfortable a left hook towards the end of the seventh round had the American wobbling, holding on and possibly saved by the bell.
Hunter regrouped and would make Bakole miss and return fire with the straight right, although by the eighth the visitor was cut near his right eye. A Bakole right punched Hunter’s mouth piece out as he appeared spent, but there was further twist to come when it was became clear at the start of the ninth that a Bakole injury meant he couldn’t throw his right hand. Hunter bounced a flush right hand off Bakole’s chin as Rahman implored Hunter to throw the left hook as Bakole’s helpless right arm would leave no means to defend it.
A tremendous barrage of head shots punctuated with a flush right hand ended the fight two minutes and 19 seconds into the tenth and final round of another breathless bout.
Bakole, based in Airdree under the watchful eye of manager and trainer Billy Nelson has rebuilding to do, while Hunter leapfrogs him in a buzzing heavyweight division.