Virgil Hunter: “Andre has something you can’t put in a fighter”
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 28, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Virgil Hunter
By John J. Raspanti, DoghouseBoxing. Virgil Hunter is aware of the challenge his fighter, super middleweight champion Andre Ward faces on September 8 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ca.

The opponent that night will be Chad Dawson, the reigning light heavyweight champion of the world.  

“I’ve always admired his skill,” said Hunter during an interview in downtown Oakland. “He’s is a helluva a fighter. I knew one day that they (Ward and Dawson) would fight. I didn’t think it would be this soon.”

The match-up is something of a surprise. Dawson will be dropping down to the 168-pound division, a weight that Ward has dominated for the last two and a half years.

Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) captured the WBA super middleweight title when he defeated Mikkel Kessler at the Oracle Arena in the fall of 2009.  Two years later, Ward defeated Carl Froch, which earned him the WBC belt, in addition to the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup.

Sandwiched between the Kessler and Froch fights were victories over Allan Green, Sakio Bika, and Arthur Abraham. Hunter has heard some complaints regarding Dawson’s decision to come down in weight to face Ward.

“It’s no picnic for Andre to make one hundred sixty-eight  pound either." said Hunter. "Right now you have different people already tarnishing a victory, if we win, by saying that it could be a weight-draining situation."

During the press conference last month, announcing the fight, Hunter, and Dawson’s promoter ,Gary Shaw, debated the merits of who is the best qualified to do the talking for a particular fight,- the fighter, or the promoter. Hunter called out to Dawson to speak for himself in what some felt was an attempt to aggravate the champion.

Hunter readily disagrees.

“I wasn’t trying to get under Chad’s skin,” said Hunter. “I was serious about what I said. I worked with California gangs for thirty years, and the obstacles that face minorities in this world. It (the moment during the press conference) suggested the epitome of, ‘Yasser boss'.

“I wasn’t angry, I was disappointed.  Chad owe’s it to his sons. He don’t need anybody to speak for him. Gary Shaw is going to be eating off Chad Dawson for the next twenty years.”

It’s obvious that Hunter not only likes Dawson the fighter, but the man as well. So, what does last year's "Trainer of the Year" see as Dawson’s strengths as a boxer?

“Dawson is a great fighter, there’s no doubt about it,” Hunter said, without hesitation. “He throws beautiful combinations. He’s got good legs, he has an understanding of the game. I can’t take anything from him. Who can?

“He’s had only one setback for whatever reason that was. You have to give him his due.”

Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) defeated legendary Bernard Hopkins to become the WBC light heavyweight champion last April. He first won the championship in 2007 by hammering Tomasz Adamek. Dawson added the IBF title by easily defeating Antonio Tarver a year later. Dawson is a long and rangy southpaw. He’s a an inch taller than Ward and will have a reach advantage of five inches.

Is Hunter worried about his fighter tangling with an unorthodox lefty?

“I think if it’s even situation. I don’t think it’s that difficult,” Hunter said. "But, if you let him (the southpaw) have his way it could be a problem. I think what’s more difficult is getting the right guys in to prepare.”

Preparing a fighter through sparring is one, if not the most important aspect of his Hunter's training camp. Many trainers work on strategy in camp and watch endless hours of tape. Hunter feels that studying tape is an overrated exercise.

“The main thing is to make sure you cover all the bases, all the area’s that need to be utilized,” said Hunter. "I think strategy is overrated. I know there a lot of coaches who look at tape after tape after tape. It’s easy to look at tape in victory and say 'I studied the tape and we got the victory'.

"All of that is an ego mechanism for the coach. If he comes out victorious, then he can kind of pull it over the media’s eyes and project himself as this great tape studier, this great strategy guy, but the fact is when you’ve got talent in both corners, it’s not about tape, it’s about what’s going to go in the moment.

“So, I think it’s exaggerated and it sounds good, but you know you never hear about tape when that person loses,” Hunter said. ”When Pacquiao wins you hear, ‘I studied the tape.I saw the weakness'. If he loses, you don’t hear anything about the tape. The coach can manipulate the media. You never hear, 'What did you miss? You said you studied the tape for hour after hour after hour, and you lost'. Tape watching is overrated. You have to be able to call a fight in the moment.”

 Hunter has been with Ward for twenty years. Is there a secret to the continuing rise of Andre Ward the fighter?

 “I’ve said from the beginning that Andre’s strengths are he beats superstars,” said Hunter. “Andre has something that you can put in a fighter, it has to be in him. That’s what will emerge September 8 against a force like Chad Dawson.”

The former standout basketball player also recognizes the bond between Dawson and his trainer, John “Iceman” Scully.

“They seem to click. Chad is comfortable with him,” Hunter said. “He’s happy with him. I think Scully is very leery of the strength coordinator,” he added.

Does the veteran trainer see something special in Andre Ward?

“He’s always been underestimated,” Hunter said. “He’s always been looked at from the outside as someone who’s easy to beat. He’s never been that guy. I think that’s what they don’t understand about him. When it becomes a reality, they realize they made a bad call.”

Hunter expects Ward to be explosive in September. The thinking is that the undefeated champion will rise to meet Dawson and then, topple him. Hunter is reluctant to make a prediction.

“I can’t predicate anything, until round one,” said Hunter. “We fought the last fight with a broken hand seven days out. We knew the hand was broke. We had to adjust. You can’t predicate a fight before it happens. Once it starts I’ll be able to read the fight and he will too.”

Goossen Tutor Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions are promoting the Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson fight in association with Antonio Leonard Productions and SOG Promotions.

The scheduled 12-rounder will be televised live on HBO® World Championship Boxing 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.

Follow and visit John on Twitter:!/johnboxing1

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