By Lem Satterfield
Former cruiserweight title contender Michael “The Bounty” Hunter’s “head will be on a swivel” following his recent entry into the heavyweight division, which is on fire with activity as of late.
Since rising to heavyweight after losing a unanimous decision to IBF/WBA/WBC/ WBO Ukrainian cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) in April 2017, Hunter’s won three straight fights, including the last two by knockout.
Hunter’s eyes will be on the 31-year-old Usyk and Saturday night’s defense against English former champion Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs), whose past two victories were by 11th- and fifth-round TKO over ex-heavyweight champion David Haye in March 2017 and May 2018.
Hunter (15-1, 10 KOs) will be ringside on December 1 at The Staples Center in Los Angeles as 6-foot-7 Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) pursues his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC title defenses against lineal champion Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) of England on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
And Hunter (15-1, 10 KOs) will be watching on television from Las Vegas home on December 22 as 2012 Olympic teammate and WBC mandatory challenger Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs) fights Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron (20-1, 16 KOs) in the opening bout of a PBC on FOX event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, while on the same night, title challenger Dillian Whyte (24-1, 17 KOs) meets Dereck Chisora (29-8, 21 KOs) at the O2 Arena in London.
“I’ll be ringside for Wilder-Fury, and I’ll definitely be watching Dominic Breazeale, my fellow Olympic teammate. I’d like to fight Dillian Whyte or Dereck Chisora, or even [former champion] Joseph Parker,” said Hunter, a 30-year-old super heavyweight national champion in 2007 and 2009.
“I know Usyk’s probably going to move up to heavyweight, so I’d like to someday get that fight again. There are a lot of great fights being made, right now, and I want to be a part of it. I just want the big names to climb the charts and let the fans know I’m ready for anybody in the top 10.”
Hunter traveled to London for perhaps his most triumphant professional win last month, being out-weighed by 43 pounds and yielding a four-inch height advantage during a 10th-round TKO victory over 6-foot-6, 256-pound Martin Bakole (11-1, 8 KOs).
“Bakole definitely had the size advantage, and he’s very heavy-handed and took a lot of shots well right from the beginning. His arms were pretty long, so he would throw shots when I was trying to exit,” said Hunter.
“I would get caught as he connected right at the tale-end as I was pulling out, which made it look worse than it was. But I never really got hurt from his shots to the point where I was going to go down.”
Hunter closed the show by ending a near-30 punch barrage with a head-swiveling right hand-left hook combination that sagged a defenseless Bakole against the ropes as the referee rescued the Scotland-based Congolese fighter.
“Bakole got away from me in the ninth round, but I knew I had another round and was patient. Once I saw him gassing…I knew that was a sign that he was giving up, I should turn it up…and let my hands go.”
“I was just a little fatigued trying to get my feet back under me. I tried to three shots to every one shot he threw, being mindful of what the judges might be seeing.”
Hunter overcame a cut near his right eye, being severely wobbled and out on his feet in the seventh round, and has beaten heavyweights Terrell Jamal Woods and Iago Kiladze by unanimous decision and fifth-round KO in April and June.
“The cut never concerned me,” said Hunter. “When I saw that he was tiring out, I wanted the knockout to try and make a statement.”
A former sparring partner for England’s IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), Bakole was coming off consecutive first-round stoppages in November and June over previously unbeaten Ali Baghouz and DL Jones, who entered with an 8-1-1 record.
Hunter’s trainer is former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, who was a 20-to-1 underdog entering his upset fifth round to knock out champion Lennox Lewis in Brakpan, South Africa in 2001, which still ranks among the greatest upsets in heavyweight boxing history.
“I liked going over to London and getting the attention of English fans,” said Hunter, who returned to London for the first time since losing in the first-round of the 2012 Olympics to current unbeaten IBF 175-pound champion Artur Beterbiev. “I wouldn’t mind going over there again for a big fight,”I’m not expecting to get an Anthony Joshua or anything, but anybody in that top 10, my head’s on a swivel watching all of them.”