Reigning “Trainer of the Year” Virgil Hunter has his hands full these days. His stable has grown in depth and quality in the last few months, and it wasn’t too shabby before the recent boom either. Hunter has always been a well-respected figure in the boxing world, but his reputation is being recognized on a much broader, more commercial platform and this is due in part to the success he and his star pupil Andre Ward have found.
Amir Khan has taken notice of that success and has enlisted Hunter with the duties of bringing him back from back to back losses — including a devastating TKO loss to Danny Garcia. It is somewhat ironic however, because the most consistent reason Khan gave for leaving Freddy Roach was the fact that he felt Roach wasn’t able to give him the full attention he felt he deserved — Roach also has a deep and talent rich stable. So with Khan playing second fiddle again to another “pound for pound” rated fighter such as Ward and being under the tutelage of one of the hottest trainers in boxing — Hunter — how will the situation differ from that of Roach?
And how about Hunter, how will he manage with another high profiled fighter on his roster to go along with Alfredo Angulo? This is on top of a stable that already includes other highly rated fighters.
One of those fighters has already competed and competed well. That fighter was junior welterweight Karim Mayfield and he secured a victory over Mauricio Herrera last weekend on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. It may have stifled some curiosity for now, but the biggest challenges await and only then will Hunter be able to fully prove that he can handle the work load.
“I have to grade Karim with an A tonight and the reason why I do is because he showed development and he’s shown that he is concentrating and focusing in the gym. When he first came into boxing he survived on his right hand, now he’s getting a sense of the ring and he’s starting to understand the small things that matter in boxing. I was impressed by his jab and how he picked his spots and it showed me he’s really starting to learn how to fight,” Hunter said in a post-fight interview with Thaboxingvoice’s Nestor Gibbs.
Hunter seems to have a good mental handle on things. I’ve only interviewed Hunter a couple times, but I have tremendous respect for him. My respect for Hunter extends beyond boxing; this man possesses real knowledge of life and social tendencies. I think that if any trainer can handle the work load it is Hunter, an old school man with a constantly evolving mind. He offered up some of his rationality and the approach he will take with him into the various training camps.
“It all depends how you fit it in your stable. You can have 3 (fighters) and have too much and you can have 8 and have the right number. I know what type of fighter I would gravitate to the most and where we would get along. I tend to gravitate to mature people. When you have a setup like that it’s not very difficult, particularly when they all can fight. I’m not in a situation where I have to tear anyone down, there’re tweaks here and tweaks there,” Hunter said.
What I take from Hunter’s rationality is he wouldn’t force a situation if he knew it wasn’t a good fit and because he’s only taken on level headed fighters then he won’t ever be in situations where he is overwhelmed.
The case with Khan is a bit more complex and it isn’t the ideal set of circumstances for any trainer. Hunter is dealt with the task of reviving Khan’s career and because the magnitude of Khan’s career suggested greatness then anything less than that could be perceived as failure. Hunter must tread lightly, which is precisely what he is doing with Khan’s comeback fight in Carlos Molina. However, Hunter explained that Molina wasn’t the soft touch comeback that most assume it is.
“Carlos wasn’t the only opponent for (Khan); [Molina] was one amongst several opponents. I thought Carlos’ pedigree and because he comes from a fighting family and his amateur background would present a real test for Amir. I thought (Molina) was the best out of the group and that’s why he was chosen, he wasn’t chosen because he was the easiest and he certainly wasn’t an out. He was the best of the opponents that were presented to me.”
The life of a top trainer is never easy, even when things are going right. Much like an NFL head coach, scrutiny is a big part of the job and when things are going smooth it seems that there will always be a group of people that want to over analyze. That is the case with Andre Ward and what many presume to be an inevitable jump up in weight class to light heavyweight. Hunter insists that Ward will remain at super middleweight for the time being.
“Right now we’re comfortable at 168lbs and I think there is still some unfinished business at 168. Eventually there will be a 175 pounder, but you got to keep an eye on what’s going on at 168, you got Froch with the [Bute] rematch and there are some indications that Kessler wants a rematch and there could be an offer.
“We’re not going to sit and let the establishment tell us that there’s nothing left [at 168lbs]. I think it’s unfair to tell a fighter there is nothing left, particularly when you have a situation where you can feed a guy to someone 2 weight classes up,” Hunter explained.
Hunter was alluding to the situation with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and how even though he fights in a deep division Golden Boy still matched him with a fighter 2 full weight classes below him in Josesito Lopez.
“They just gave Canelo a guy 2 weight classes down, now did you give him [Lopez] because there was nobody in the 154lb weight class?”
Hunter makes an excellent point because if anyone has earned the kind of royal treatment Canelo has received it is Ward. Hunter also said in the interview that fighters with a country behind them usually get special treatment in boxing. That’s true, and it is also true that Ward isn’t necessarily an American hero even though he is an Olympic Gold medalists and a tremendous role model for the youth. Why shouldn’t Ward have a say in who he fights and why should he be forced into a weight class that he may not be ready for? We’re not talking about hand picking feeble opponents, but at least dictating the pace of career challenges.
Hunter is the kind of level headed mind that a fighter needs in the corner; not just as guide through 12 rounds, but more so as a guide through the path of a career.