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Michael Hunter is Fueled by Thoughts of his Father as he Pursues Heavyweight Glory

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  • Michael Hunter is Fueled by Thoughts of his Father as he Pursues Heavyweight Glory

    Click image for larger version  Name:	michael hunter.PNG Views:	1 Size:	383.8 KB ID:	14458

    By Arne K. Lang

    “I got into boxing because of my dad and then I stayed in it because of my dad.” So said Michael Hunter who fights undefeated Sergey Kuzmin a week from Friday at Madison Square Garden on DAZN with the winner very much in the mix for a shot at a world heavyweight title in 2020.

    For the uninitiated, Michael Hunter is the son of the late Mike “The Bounty” Hunter. Active from 1985 to 1996, Mike Hunter, an undersized heavyweight, was one of the more interesting fighters of his era. He had a unique style, a style that defied description. Perhaps the best comparison would be Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson, a boxer best remembered for his two fights with Floyd Patterson. “Name a punch,” said Arthur Daley of the New York Times, “and (Hurricane Jackson) has it. He also has a few nobody ever thought of before.”

    All comparisons are imperfect and this is giving Mike Hunter the worst of it. He was very hard to hit cleanly. There were elements of his game similar to (take your pick) Young Griffo or Willie Pep or Pernell Whitaker. And he had a granite chin. He was stopped only once and that was in his final pro fight in Copenhagen against Brian Nielsen when he retired on his stool after four rounds with an injury of dubious authenticity. At that, he lasted one round longer than Tony Tubbs who went out the same way. The expression “There’s Something Fishy in Denmark” didn’t originate with Danish boxing promoter Mogens Palle but it could have.

    Mike Hunter finished his career with a record of 26-7-2 with one no-decision. Who knows how far he would have gone if he had packed a harder punch? He scored only eight knockouts. But despite this drawback, he was one of the great spoilers in heavyweight history. Among his victims were Oliver McCall, Pinklon Thomas, Ossie Ocasio and Tyrell Biggs, all of whom out-weighed him by 16-20 pounds. On one of the rare occasions when he was pitted against a man of his own poundage, he dropped down to cruiserweight and won a wide 12-round decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

    Many boxing mavens know only the raw details of Mike Hunter’s life. They know he served time in prison before starting his boxing career at age twenty-six. They know he died under strange circumstances. He was shot during an altercation with two plainclothes policemen on the roof of the gone-to-seed St. Moritz Hotel in Hollywood where he had been staying. The cops were reportedly conducting a routine drug sting. He was shot twice and died from his wounds.

    These raw facts, while true, obscure the true Mike Hunter. Among other things, he was a family man, devoted to his children. In Las Vegas, where he lived during the bulk of his boxing career, he usually brought his kids with him to the gym. In 1990, when he went off to Australia to fight hot prospect Jimmy Thunder, he arrived in Melbourne with his family, including two-year-old Michael, in tow. After Mike knocked out Thunder, the family remained in Australia for almost two years. (It was there that young Michael Hunter first learned to talk. When the family returned to the U.S., Michael’s playmates were bemused by his Australian accent.)

    When Michael Hunter says that he got into boxing because of his father, he is referencing the fact that he literally grew up in the sport. There was also a boxing connection on his mother’s side. His maternal grandfather Norman Henry was a matchmaker in Philadelphia and for a time ran a boxing gym in Santa Monica. Norman Henry was close pals with Archie Moore and served as an adviser to George Foreman when Foreman re-entered the sport after a 10-year absence.

    Michael idolized his father. In one of their conversations, the elder Hunter told his son how proud he would be if he became an Olympian. It eventually happened, but it took two tries.

    Hunter made the 2008 U.S. Olympic team as a super heavyweight, but had to clear more hurdles to punch his ticket to Beijing and came up short in the final Olympic qualifier in Guatemala. Pressured to turn pro, he elected to give it one more shot although that meant staying an amateur for four more years.

    In 2012, competing as a heavyweight, he represented the U.S. at the London games, fulfilling his father’s dream. But he failed to medal, losing his second-round contest to Russia’s Artur Beterbiev on a close and controversial decision.

    Hunter won his first 12 pro fights before running into fellow unbeaten Oleksandr Usyk. Hunter had his moments, but the Ukrainian cruiserweight, who had a big 12th round, won by seven points on all three cards. Michael’s management then decided that henceforth Michael would compete only as a heavyweight.

    Hunter, in common with his father, had always fought bigger men. While still a teenager, he sparred with the likes of Samuel Peter and Hasim Rahman, the latter a long-time family friend who is now a member of his brain trust. As an amateur he swapped punches with the towering Tyson Fury at a U.S.A.-England dual meet. The judges gave Fury the decision in the 3-round go which Hunter insists was a great injustice. His former sparring partners include both Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, who brought Hunter to their training camp in a small skiing village in the Tirol mountains of Austria, a place that Hunter would like to re-visit. He says it’s the most beautiful place on earth.

    Since fighting strictly as a heavyweight, the results have been smashing. He’s won five straight including stoppages of Martin Bakole Ilunga (KO 5) and veteran Alexander Ustinov (TKO 10). The previously undefeated Ilunga, who carried 256 pounds on a six-foot-six frame, was touted by no less an authority than Barry McGuigan as the next big thing. They fought at London’s venerable York Hall.

    Stylistically, Michael Hunter doesn’t fight anything like his father. But like his dad, he has embraced the role of a spoiler.

    This past April, Hunter signed a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization. Shortly thereafter, Anthony Joshua’s fight with Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller fell out when Miller tested positive for PEDs. Several writers, including this reporter, rated Hunter the favorite to fill the empty slot, but Hearn ultimately picked Andy Ruiz.

    Hunter was ringside for Joshua-Ruiz. When Ruiz scored his first knockdown, Hunter remembers shouting to no one in particular, “I told you so; I told you.” Hunter had sparred with Ruiz and like all the others that had shared the ring with the Mexican, he knew that there was more to Ruiz than meets the eye.

    Hunter’s nemesis Oleksandr Usyk had previously signed with Matchroom. As first reported by The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger, Usyk will make his debut as a heavyweight on Oct. 12 in Chicago against Suriname-born Tyrone Spong, a former champion kickboxer who left that sport in 2014 after suffering a fractured leg in a fight in Istanbul.

    “Skill-wise,” says Hunter, “Oleksandr Usyk can out-box any heavyweight. However, he doesn’t fight like a heavyweight and for that reason he may have trouble getting big fights. Heavyweights don’t like to get out-boxed. If they are going to lose, they would prefer to lose to a slugger.”

    These remarks harked to his father. No important heavyweight wanted to fight Mike “The Bounty” Hunter, for even if he were to beat him, he wasn’t likely to look good in the process. The elder Hunter secured several big fights only because a replacement was needed and the promoter was desperate. He fought Tyrell Biggs for the vacant USBA title on 24 hours notice, salvaging a Top Rank ESPN fight that unraveled when Tony Tubbs tested positive for cocaine, his second infraction. Oh, and by the way, Hunter won the fight.

    In addition to being a participant, Michael Hunter is a fan of boxing. He’s very much looking forward to the forthcoming light heavyweight unification fight between Oleksandr Gvozdyk and his old amateur rival Artur Beterbiev. “This will be a beautiful fight for the fans to watch,” he says. “It will be a test of wills. Beterbiev has great timing and I think he will do really well in the middle rounds.” But can he sustain it? Hunter is non-committal.

    It’s an awkward question, but we had to ask it: Does Michael Hunter believe that the circumstances of his father’s death were accurately reported by the media? Mike Hunter was reportedly shot after hitting one of the officers over the head with a fake handgun.

    “We’ll never know what really happened,” he says, noting that there were no witnesses. “The police may have drawn their guns a little too soon. There’s that tendency when they confront a black male they perceive to be a threat.” He says this matter-of-factly, without raising his voice, while acknowledging that the father he lost when he was seventeen years old, the man whose memory he cherishes, had personal demons and fell prey to drugs.

    Michael Hunter has a younger brother who may get there ahead of him in the race to fight for a world title. Keith Hunter, a 27-year-old welterweight, is 11-0. The brothers, who train in the same Las Vegas gym, are both “The Bounty” Hunters. Like father, like sons.

    Sergey Kuzmin, Michael Hunter’s opponent on Sept. 13, hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, and, like Hunter, had a wealth of amateur experience. Kuzmin is 15-0 (11 KOs) with 1 no-decision, that coming in a match with Amir Mansour that was stopped in the third round when both suffered severe cuts following an accidental clash of heads. In his most recent fight, Kuzmin scored a majority decision over rugged Joey Dawejko.

    The oddsmakers have chalked Hunter (17-1, 12 KOs) the favorite, but the odds are short, seemingly portending a very competitive fight. As always, Michael will feel his father’s presence as he enters the ring. And whatever the outcome, he has the satisfaction of knowing that his father would be very proud of him.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Nice one....................


    • #3
      Thank you.


      • Kid Blast
        Kid Blast commented
        Editing a comment

    • #4
      If Michael is an honest man (and I think he wants to be) he doesn't blame the police for having to respond to and deal with his father. If Michael is a renaissance man, he'll forgive his father and watch his own boxing career blossom because of it.

      RIP Michael Hunter. Good luck son.


      • #5
        I like what Hunter has done recently and how his career has progressed. He has now gotten himself to the "A" side and did it by winning consistently as the "B" side opponent.

        But I will say right now oddsmakers are badly missing on this fight with Kuzmin. It is more of a 50/50 type contest. Keep in mind Kuzmin suffered an arm injury in that fight with Dawejko and that's why Kuzmin's performance was not up to par that night. I actually bumped into him (literally) after the fight at a restaurant in Turning Stone and saw the saw his arm in a sling. Don't judge Kuzmin on this performance. He will be better against Hunter.