|Virgil Hunter on Andre Ward: “We’re always working. When he comes back, he'll better than ever"
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (July 23, 2013)
It’s easy to get a fighter that wins all the time and when they lose you let them go. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m down for the kids. I embrace it, I love it, and I’m dedicated to the fighter. - Virgil Hunter
Virgil Hunter loves his fighters. He treats them equally, and gives them the necessary motivation to succeed. They are, in a sense, his children. He's very protective of super middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo. He took on Angulo after a difficult loss, the same way he did with former champion Amir Khan, and most recently Andre Berto. His relationship with second-ranked, pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward is built on trust and respect. Last week I ventured to Hunter's "office," a coffee shop in downtown Oakland, CA. to discuss his stable of boxers.
Along with his obvious pride is a competitiveness that bristles at certain questions.
John J. Raspanti. A few days ago, your fighter, Brandon Gonzales, fought on HBO against heavily- favored IBO super middleweight champion Thomas Ooesthuizen. The fight was judged a draw. Many, including myself, felt that Gonzales won the fight. Did you feel that Gonzales was robbed?
Virgil Hunter: Of course, I gave him (the opponent) three out of the ten rounds. Even in the roundswhenthe other kid came back, he (Brandon) still landed the decisive punches, with the exception of the last round. I was disappointed that Brandon didn’t close the show. He gave em a reason to give him a draw, but you have to score the fight round by round. He won decisively. You had all three Dibella (promoter Lou Dibella) judges. It’s unfortunate that a kid has to do the training camp, spend the money, take blows in sparring, and everything else and works his butt off. If he earned it, give it to him. Don’t save the other guy because he thought he had a cakewalk. JJR: During the Gonzales bout your whispering in between rounds received much comment.
VH: I didn’t think I was whispering because nobody would have heard me. It wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t like I said, ‘I’m going to whisper to him.’ I was just trying to interject something into him. Each kid is different.
JJR: Gennady Golovkin is something of a sensation in boxing right now. You got an up-close and personal look at triple G. What did you think?
VH: I think he’s a heck of a fighter. He did what he was supposed to do to an opponent who I could see was terrified.
JJR: There was talk after the Macklin fight of a Golovkin vs. Ward showdown. Do you think that fight will happen?
VH: I don’t know. They’ve (Golovkin’s team) said in the press conference, and they’ve said numerous times, that they don’t want to fight right now. It’s probably a possibility down the road. They feel there are other fighters in their division (middleweight) like Martinez, Chávez, and Quillin. They have some fights on the books rather than have him come up to sixty-eight and fight as a super middleweight.
JJR: Who wins between Golovkin and Sergio Martinez?
VH: You know, I couldn’t make an honest prediction until I see how Martinez rebounds from his injuries. When you consider his age, and the fact that he’s had some injuries that would seriously compromise some of his abilities in what he needs to do with a guy like Golovkin. His knee, it’s essential that he’s mobile. And his hand, it’s essential that he’s able to put his punches together without any difficulties. Man, a knee and a hand, that’s not good for a guy like him. If they fought today he’d be in trouble.
JJR: Let’s talk about Khan. He's such a polarizing figure. Some fans seem to loath him. Why is that?
VH: Believe it or not, he has a fan base that loves him. I don’t hate him. If you took a few minutes to think about it, it’s really the UK people. I guess you’ve got a few people over here that don’t like him. Maybe it’s because he’s brash. You put a microphone up to Amir and he’s going to say what’s on his mind.
JJR: Khan defeated Julio Diaz in his comeback fight, but was knocked down. Were you concerned when Khan was floored?
VH: No. It’s like he and I discussed. When Amir commits to spending time in the gym, in between fights, that's where he’ll correct some of the flaws. Right now he has to learn how to attack a man better. He’s pretty reckless. You can’t overcome that without repetition. If you really look at it, when he gets knocked down it’s always when he goes after somebody. He has a tendency to leave himself open. His head will be up in the air – so you’ll get a good clear shot at him. I don’t worry about what people say about his chin. He’s proven that he’ll get up. He has great recuperative powers. When he’s counterpunching and sees everything, he very rarely gets hit. He just needs to spend enough time with me so we can hone his angles of attack. If he can do that, he’s going to be a problem for anybody.
JJR: Angulo lost a tough fight to Erislandy Lara last month in Carson, California, even though he scored two knockdowns. The bout was stopped because of an injury to Angulo's eye. What's your take on the stoppage?
VH: There’s nothing wrong with Angulo’s eye. He had a scratched cornea. I thought it was unfair of the doctor to come out with a premature diagnosis without him even going to the hospital and being checked out. Maybe he did it because he didn’t want bedlam in the ring. I still believe what Angulo told me, he said Mara thumbed him. It’s laughable that people say that the Grant glove is a thumbless glove. There’s no such thing as a thumbless glove. He was poked. Look, I don’t want to take away from the fight. They didn’t give him a chance in the first place. You can’t measure his heart and you can’t measure his determination because he went into the fight without one advantage. When you go down the list, Lara had an advantage in everything, jab, speed, amateur pedigree, foot speed. Alfredo had one advantage, punching power. So the secret was how to get him in position to punch. So, we worked on what we needed to do to get his power in position. I think everybody was shocked that he was able to do what he did against the best one hundred fifty-four pound fighter in the world, whether they like his style or not. Alfredo took him to hell and back and gave him the worst beating of his career. It’s as simple as that.
JR: Will there be a rematch?
VH: I doubt it. Lara doesn't want go through that again. That was hell. I take my hat off to Lara to be able to endure that kind of punishment. I don’t think he wants to go through that again. The next time will have him down pat. He fought the best he could. This was Alfredo’s third fight back. I think Alfredo will be better the next time. He was one punch a way from winning that fight. They better watch out for Angulo.
JR: Can Angulo get better at thirty years old?
VH: Yes, he’s only had twenty-two fights (writer's note: 25) The Lara fight was tough in terms of getting hit quite frequently. He can get better with an understanding. You dissect every fight and learn.
JR: Is it more important to get your fighter ready physically or mentally, or is it equally the same?
VH: I’ve got some guys that have to come to me off of losses. I could have took the easy way out and stuck with my winner that I had from the beginning. I could have kept my record spotless. I’m not in for that. They came to me and I embrace them. Everybody is not going to win. I don’t have to prove nothing to nobody. I got a gold medal and the number-two-ranked fighter in the world. He’ll soon be number one. I don’t think you’re a good coach unless you can figure out and help somebody come back from a loss that affects you physically as well as psychologically. It’s easy to get a fighter that wins all the time and when they lose you let them go. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m down for the kids. I embrace it, I love it, and I’m dedicated to the fighter.
JJR: This is your first camp with Andre Berto. How's it been going?
VH: Well, we’re doing this fight (writer's note: July 27) and then we see how it is from there. Like any guy coming off a loss, and I’ve got the experience of seeing that now, there’s a rebuilding process. There’s a rebuilding of confidence. In the first camp you’re getting to know someone. I'm glad to have him. Things are going well.
JJR: Karim Mayfield has been making some noise. He's ranked number two by the WBO. Are you pleased with the progress Mayfield has made?
VH: It'a going good with Karim. He's making noise for himself. At his age (writer's note: 32) he has to do that. He has to keep it interesting for himself by self-promoting as much as he can. I think him being merged with Top Rank should help him out. He's staying in pretty good condition. It is what it is. He's got my full support. I'm proud of him, starting boxing at such a late age, like he did, and to come as far as he has. I'm hoping he gets an opportunity.
JJR: It's been a while since you've gone to training camp with Andre Ward. Do you miss working with him?
VH: We don't ever stop working together. Even when he was rehabbing his shoulder we were still in the gym. We don't miss a week. We always work on something. That's who he's about. The conditioning never stops. We've been working on his left hand more. It's as simple as that. So when he does come back, he'll be even better.
JJR: There's been some discussion of Ward fighting Adonis Stevenson. Could that happen?
VH: I guess when he moves up to light heavyweight. That's what everybody wants. I'm sure before it's all said and done, he'll put all of them in body bags. I'm sure somewhere down the road that fight will happen.
JJR: Carl Froch is talking rematch with Ward. He thinks he's the boss. Is he?
VH: Froch thinks, after beating an old Kessler, that he's in that position. But he'll find out if a fight with Andre goes to the negotiating table, that he's not in that position. Andre has a powerhouse behind him. He can forget that. The bottom line is, he can say he don't need us, but we don't him. He's the one that's going to have to retire, knowing that he didn''t have the guts to get back in there and try to right what he felt was a wrong. He said he missed his family and he was in New York, whatever your excuse was - you now have an opportunity to right it. You say you’re the warrior. You say you’re the tough guy. He's using Andre's name to keep himself relevant. He should be careful what he says if he doesn't have the heart and courage to step back in with Andre. If you want the fight in the UK, make the right offer.
JJR: Thank you very much, Virgil
VH: Thank you, John
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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