MICHAEL HUNTER was pleased to be back in the UK. He spoke to Boxing News after a brisk media workout at a gym in south London. He’s here to face his next opponent, heavyweight Martin Bakole, the “next big thing” no less in the words of promoter Barry McGuigan. The American was sanguine about the challenge ahead of him and upset Bakole at York Hall in October. He was happy to be in London once again. He boxed in the 2012 Olympic Games. Hunter had boxed in Britain before that too, when he boxed future world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the amateur code.
“We had a dual, England versus USA, and I ended up facing Tyson Fury. People don’t know that I fought him in the amateurs,” Hunter said. “I beat him damn near to death in three rounds and actually he got the victory though. I would have had to basically knock him outside of the ring. But I definitely thought I won that fight. I was very confident, I’m still very confident because I’ve already been in the ring with him.
“I was amazed at seeing how big this dude was.”
Fury was not the only great boxer Hunter met in his career. At London 2012, Artur Beterbiev edged him out in a close contest. The two were level and the verdict went to Beterbiev after a countback. “I won the first two rounds and then I lost the fight basically in the last round,” Hunter said. “The Olympics you have to be the very best at that moment, the Olympics is very hard to win.
“I know he went down to light-heavyweight but I would like to get that fight.”
Hunter has fought an Olympic gold medallist, last year he went the distance with Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO cruiserweight title. Hunter reflected, “If I had the chance I would have fought him the next day. I would say come back here and meet me tomorrow and see if we can handle this. Boxing, even though it’s a one man sport, it’s a such a community thing, a team type situation. I got a lot of experience from that.”
“You don’t really mess up in the fight, you mess up in the training and the training situation. That’s where the fight is usually won,” he continued. “I learned a lot of different things.”
He wants to box Usyk once again, especially as he thinks the Ukrainian will struggle to secure the most high profile fights at heavyweight. “I heard that he was going to move up to heavyweight, so I hope to meet him there. I know he’s going to have probably some difficult times getting fights because he’s not a big puncher. He’s more of a strict boxer. He’s been beating a lot of people on points mostly. It’s going to be even more likely for him to beat people on points as a heavyweight. I don’t know if he will get the big fights. I don’t know if Anthony Joshua will end up fighting him. Because they know it’s going to be a difficult chess match, not so much more of a fight,” Hunter said.
“He’s going to get fights because he has the backing and stuff but I don’t think he’s going to get the big, big fights that he wants. There’s a lot of fights Anthony Joshua could take instead of fighting him. He’s not going to be a big, big money fight in that way.”
Hunter however does tip Usyk to beat Joshua if they did fight. “I think he would beat Joshua, without a doubt. I think he would outbox him and beat him on points very easily I think, even in England. This guy has a lot of experience. Even though these guys are very big, we’re used to fighting big guys. People like Usyk, myself, probably there’s a handful of cruiserweights that are used to fighting those big guys and they know how to deal with them. He has experience. He had two or three hundred amateur fights. He’s fought all over the world, he’s fought in the Olympics, being in the big crowd is not going to be a problem for him and I think it would end up reversing on Anthony Joshua, the pressure would end up flipping on Anthony Joshua when they get in the ring,” Hunter said. “When they get in there, I think Usyk will know how to turn the crowd on him. [They’ll] boo, you know what I’m saying, because he’s not really hitting with big shots but he’s winning the rounds.”
Hunter is a fighter by nature. He is also one by nurture. His father was Mike Hunter, a heavyweight contender in the ‘90s, who died in tragic circumstances. In 2006 he was shot after an altercation with people who turned out to be undercover police officers. “That affected me in a big way because I’m the second. I looked up to him. Every chance I had I would be on his coat tails. It was definitely a big tragedy and an event for me,” Michael said. “I had to grow up in certain ways.”
“It made me a more mature man,” he reflected. “After that was when I decided to go to the Olympics.
“I started really fine tuning myself as a fighter and what I wanted to do.”
His father had shaped him. “That’s the whole reason I’m in boxing. I wanted to be just like him when I was little,” Hunter said. “He was a very flamboyant showman. He had a lot of fun in there. I think that was one of the reasons I took to boxing because he was having so much fun. He enjoyed what he was doing which made him good at it. When I was a kid growing up I wanted to be just like him.
“My family has a stake in this sport. So I need to get something out of it and get my family’s just due for it.”