Improving heavyweight Michael Hunter looking for his shot
By John J. Raspanti
As I watched Michael Hunter annihilate Fabio Maldonado a little over a month ago, I was struck by one thought.
Is this the same guy who lost a wide decision to Oleksandr Usyk a few years ago?
The answer is yes. I had to remind myself that as an amateur, Hunter won the top award at the National Championships in the super heavyweight division.
In 2012, he dropped down to the heavyweight division. He fought Tyson Fury (felt he won, even though he didn’t get the decision) and qualified for the Olympics-where he was edged by future light heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev.
Boxing is in Hunter’s blood. His father, Michael Hunter Sr., mixed with the major heavyweights of the 1980’s and ’90’s, defeating former champions Oliver McCall, Pinklon Thomas, Dwight Muhammad Quai, Ossie Ocasio, and Tyrell Biggs. Michael Jr. grew up around boxing. He always knew he would fight. One of his biggest regrets is that his dad, who was shot and killed in 2006, never got to see him fight as a pro.
Hunter Jr. turned professional in 2013. He captured the World Boxing Organization cruiserweight title in his twelfth pro fight. He lost it to multi-talented, and heavily favored, Usyk one bout later. Hunter was awkward but effective at times, surprising Usyk with blows from left field.
After his first loss, Hunter left the fight game for over a year. He returned to win a few meaningless matches, but also made a big move when he started working with family friend, and former heavyweight champion, Hasim Rahman.
The move boosted his confidence. He would need it for his next fight against giant heavyweight Martin Bakile Ilunga, who was being called by many the “next big thing” in London.
Bakile is certainly big, tipping the scales at 256 pounds and standing 6-foot-6. Hunter, four inches shorter and forty pounds lighter, looked puny in the ring, but he took the fight to Bakile. He ignored a cut over his right eye, and a rough seventh round, before stopping Bakile in the last round.
Surprisingly, a little over a month later, Hunter was back in the ring against veteran heavyweight Alexander Ustinov in Monte Carlo-scoring a brutal knockout in round nine.
His improvement was obvious. His jab was sharper. Though considered a small heavyweight in today’s world of giants, Hunter used underrated speed and cleverness to keep Ustinov off-balance.
Trainer Rahman has no doubt how good his fighter is.
"Michael Hunter is the best heavyweight in the world," said Rahman in an article on www.maxboxing.com a few months ago. "Michael has the heart, the speed, the DNA, and underestimated punching power to capture the heavyweight championship of the world.”
Hunter agrees with his trainer.
“I believe I have all the tools to make my dream come true,” Hunter said. “I am preparing myself to be the best fighter I can be. You have not seen the best of me yet — I have a lot to improve on."