Boxing Trainer of the year Virgil Hunter on honors, 2011 and the future of Andre Ward - Interview
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (March 5, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Virgil Hunter
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: Recently I ventured out to Hayward, Ca. to speak with "TRAINER OF THE YEAR" recipient Virgil Hunter. Before our scheduled sit-down, I stood and watched Hunter working with rising contender Michael Dallas Jr. Hunter fits no stereotype as a trainer. He's a big man who moves with an easy grace. Hunter doesn't yell or intimidate-he teaches. He's the father who cares about the boxers he trains.

I asked him to tell me what he thought after hearing that he had won the top trainer award.

“I was grateful," he said. "It’s humbling to be included in that fraternity. I appreciate the writers and the considerations. But, more then anything it goes out to my fraternity of Barry Hunter, Nazim Richardson, Kevin Cunningham, and Leon Larson and all the guys.

"It’s a testament to the fraternity that I come from, the diligence, the promise to support each other. I happen to emerge but it’s (winning) is really for everybody."

Hunter’s godson, and "FIGHTER OF THE YEAR" Andre Ward, completed a triumphant year by winning the Super Six Tournament in Atlantic City. Ward defeated Carl Froch by unanimous decision.

Did the "NOTTINGHAM SLUGGER" do anything that surprised Hunter?

“No, Carl Froch is all about bravado," said Hunter. "He’s really a nervous, unsure fighter. If you watch his fights, until he gets the feel of a fight, until he feels secure in a fight, then a fighter will emerge. He’s unsure of himself,"he said. "I'm just sorry we had the broken hand."

Hunter is building a name as a psychological game player. His discussion with Froch and his promoter had them looking bemused and confused. However, according to Hunter, he's not doing anything special.

“None of that was intentional," said Hunter."They came to me and asked me was he going to fight. "I gave them an answer which turned out to be accurate. I told them, 'Yeah he’s (Andre Ward) going to fight, your going to get a lot and he’s going to hurt you."

"So that’s what happened. I just told them the truth. There was nothing additional or any psychological attempts there at all.”

I asked Hunter how much better the undefeated Ward can get.

“I’d say he’s about seventy-five percent of what he’s going to be,"Hunter said. "The main thing is his knee is healed from the ACL tear (from two years ago) People have to remember that he went into the A league’s in his 17th fight. Most guys don’t go into the A league’s until their 26th fight. We could have kept him in the B and C league and he would have been knocking guys out. He had 12 knockouts in his first 16 fights. They were calling him a puncher. Then he went to the A league in his 17th fight. Elite fighters don’t get knocked out.”

Ward broke his left hand in the Froch fight. Does Hunter believe his charge would have knocked Froch out?

“I believe he would have stopped him with a culmination of punches,” said Hunter. "He had a broken hand. The left hook was working."

Ward was injured on December 17, 2011. How is the healing process coming along?

“His hand is healing up real good, beyond what we would have expected," Hunter said.

The goal is for Ward to be back in the ring in May of this year, preferably in Oakland. But as always in boxing, nothing is set in stone.

“I’m hoping it’s in Oakland. It should be," said Hunter.”The fight will have to make financial sense. Anthony Dirrell (ranked number one by the WBA) is a great fighter, but again, it has to make sense for Dirrell and us.”

Many boxing scribes want Ward to fight the other champion, Lucian Bute of Canada. I asked Hunter about Bute.

“I think he’s great fighter," he said without hesitation."He’s done what he’s supposed to do to the people he’s fought. I don’t think he’s fought the best yet.”

Last month Denmark's pride and joy Mikkel Kessler called for a rematch with Ward.

“We're hoping we can get the Kessler fight along with Bute and Froch again, "said Hunter. "I think that’s what we are looking at. And, travel to there home countries. I think that’s in the makings. A lot of people don’t think were willing to go to Denmark or Canada, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”

There has been talk of Ward moving up to the light heavyweight division.

“It will happen at some point," said Hunter.” But, not now. I think we will take some fights at light heavy, test the waters. He has no problem making the weight. One sixty-eight is a hot division from top to bottom. You have five champions in the top five.”

Hunter is working with young fighters Stan Martyniouk and NABO champion Karim Mayfield. It's obvious that the work is just as beneficial for Hunter as it is the fighters.

“I really get a joy out of teaching. I like building my own fighters. It keeps you challenged and motivated. I have two amateurs I’m working with too. Working with all of them teaches you how to coach."

Recent work from Raspanti:
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