ESB Exclusive Interview with boxing trainer Virgil Hunter

Dawson vs. Ward - Dawson vs. Ward

“But as far as my personal opinion, and I think that I’m entitled to have my personal opinion like Steve Bunce or anybody else who’s a Joe Calzaghe fan—in my opinion we would have chewed him up!”—Virgil Hunter

Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani – Yesterday afternoon I was afforded the opportunity to speak with boxing trainer Virgil Hunter, who recently helped prepare and guide Andre Ward to his tremendous victory last weekend against ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson. Hunter shared his views on training and preparations for that fight, the action that unfolded in the match itself, and future plans for him and Ward. He also provided his unique insight for the upcoming middleweight showdown this Saturday night between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Junior. Here is a complete transcript from that interview.


GEOFFREY CIANI: Hello everyone. This is Geoffrey Ciani from East Side Boxing and I am joined here today by head trainer Virgil Hunter, who recently helped lead Andre Ward to his spectacular victory against Chad Dawson last weekend. How’s everything going, Virgil?

VIRGIL HUNTER: Everything’s going good today. How are you today?

CIANI: I’m doing very well, thank you. And I have to say Virgil, I was very impressed with Andre’s performance, and the thing that impressed me the most was the way he was able to neutralize Chad’s jab right from the get-go through footwork and upper body movement. I’m wondering is that something you specifically worked on in camp to take away Chad’s jab?

HUNTER: Well that’s one of the specifics that we worked on to take away his jab. Actually the position of his eyes in an area of Chad was the most important thing. If we had the eyes positioned in the right place we knew that his body would be positioned in the right place and that he could maneuver Chad. We wanted to maneuver his jab. We wanted to give him the target that we wanted to give him, so it was very important that the positions were adhered to. So his eyes were the most important thing in that situation, and we worked on that, and once we got the hang of where the eyes were supposed to be, and the position his eyes were supposed to be in and centered on, the rest was pretty easy.


Larry Merchant throws best jab of the night

by Paul Strauss: (Vitali stops Charr in 4th on bad cut), DeMarco vs Molina – Junior sits it out, Ward vs Dawson – Andre makes another one look easy

To start off the night’s festivities, HBO showed a replay of forty-one year old Vitali Klitschko’s 4th round TKO destruction of Manuel Charr at the Olimpiyskia in Moscow, Russia. After the fight, announcer Jim Lampley asked Larry about the possibility of David Haye remaining a thorn in the side of the Klitschko brothers. Larry reminded Jim about Haye’s “Loser’s Limp” display done after his fight with Wladimir when he removed his shoe to show everyone his injured little toe. The implication was that was the reason for his loss. In Larry’s deliberate manner, he said Haye should have removed his shorts, which would have revealed the the real reason for his loss. It was obvious Larry meant we wouldn’t be seeing any Fruit of the Looms.

Well, Dr. Iron Fist had his boxer shorts on while showing a total disregard for anything Charr might try to do. Vitali kept both hands low, inviting Charr to try something. Charr’s strategy seemed to be to tire out Vitali by letting him tee off on him? Well, let that be a lesson to fledging boxers. If you simply hold up what you hope is a tight guard, but don’t punch back, your opponent is going to find a way to penetrate your defense, as did Vitali. Soon he was getting through with a variety of shots, and by the third round a cut had developed over Charr’s right eyelid. In the fourth, Referee Guido Callverli stopped the action long enough for the ringside physician to take a look. After twice wiping away a considerable amount of blood, the doctor said no go, and the fight was stopped. Larry and Max Kellerman thought it might have been a little premature. They alluded to Moscow’s lack of experience with world title fights. Lampley pointed out the physician seemed to have a German sounding name and not a Russian one, for all that’s worth.


How would tonight’s Andre Ward match up against the Joe Calzaghe who beat Mikkel Kessler?

Dawson vs. Ward - Dawson vs. Ward

by Geoffrey Ciani – Yes! It has already reached that point. Andre Ward is so good we are forced to look into the past in order to find a competitor worthy of his attention. That is the unique distinction Ward has earned with his total domination of ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson. Andre now finds himself in a similar situation as the Klitschko brothers. They are so dominant, that debating how they would fare against current contenders has become all too predictable. Creating hypothetical match-ups where the Klitschkos are pitted against former heavyweight greats is far more interesting than discussing the length of time it would take Wladimir or Vitali to dispose of someone like Alexander Povetkin. Unfortunately for Andre Ward, super middleweight history does not run as rich or deep as boxing’s most prestigious weight class. Therefore we are forced to look back on guys like Joe Calzaghe or Roy Jones Junior circa 1994 in order to actually find someone who may pose as a perceived challenge to Ward’s still growing talent (no disrespect to Andre Dirrell and Edwin Rodriguez).

Yes! Chad Dawson was weight drained. And yes! Andre Ward probably should have taken the fight at the light heavyweight limit of 175 pounds, but based on what we witnessed tonight, I do not believe it would have mattered whether they fought at 168, 170, 175, or hell, even 190! Ward simply proved to be a cut above Dawson. If the fight took place at light heavyweight Chad may well have possibly avoided the three knockdowns and made it to the final bell, but tactically speaking he had no answers for Ward. Everything Andre did was like a perfectly synchronized harmony. His movement, from head-to-toe, created a remarkable degree of elusiveness that Chad found impenetrable. This was abundantly clear right from the onset when Dawson could not find opportunities to even commit to his best weapon, his jab. Ward easily neutralized it from the get go, no adjustments necessary. Ward seized complete command of the action and dictated the fighting range to his liking throughout the one-sided contest. There was no one thing in particular that troubled Chad. Each and every thing Ward did worked, whether he was jabbing, throwing lead hooks, working the body with both hands, shifting Chad into position, owning the infighting, landing crisp blistering rights, slipping out of harm’s way, tearing brilliant uppercuts, or simply just keeping Chad wherever he wanted him to be. It was complete mastery of his opponent by Ward, and it all stemmed from his footwork and upper body movement, which were enough to neutralize Chad’s jab. Game over.


Ward vs Dawson – Can’t get cuts out of your mind?

by Paul Strauss: Who really knows what matters most? Has Chad Dawson made a mistake is conceding too much in weight and location? Will Chad’s height and reach advantage be the difference for him against the master of ring generalship? Andre hasn’t yet lost, and has that intangible “mental toughness” that most fighters only wish they had. Can Chad muster it up for maybe the biggest fight of his career? There is a precedent for it…… least one fighter comes to mind in Buster Douglas with his win over the then thought to be invincible Mike Tyson. It can be done.

Andre Ward has demonstrated the ability to neutralize the assets of his opponents. In other words, he is a master at preventing them from doing what they want to do. Carl Froch explained it best when he said Ward either kept him too close or too far away for him to be effective. Jean Pascal was doing a pretty good job of that with Dawson until the latter part of the fight when Dawson finally got angry and started coming on, but blood in the eye(s) cut his surge short. One good thing for Chad concerning that fight is he truly believes he was on his way to stopping Pascal. True or not, it’s good that he believes it, and believes that he is really an undefeated fighter, the same as Ward.


Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson: Preview and Prediction

Dawson vs. Ward - Dawson vs. Ward

by Geoffrey Ciani – It is a rare occurrence in boxing to see two elite talents both in their primes squaring off against each other. Therefore boxing fans have reason to celebrate, because this Saturday night unified super middleweight champion Andre ‘S.O.G.’ Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) will defend his belts against light heavyweight title holder ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs). Both combatants deserve credit for making this match happen, especially in a day and age where all too often the best are reluctant to face the best for various different reasons. Not only are Dawson and Ward two of the most talented pound-for-pound boxers in the world, they are also arguably coming into this contest following the apex of their respective careers. This just serves to further amplify the appeal of an already intriguing match-up.

The story in the lead-up to this fight has largely focused on the weight. This fight will be taking place at the 168 pound super middleweight limit. Chad Dawson is a big light heavyweight, and he last made the 168 limit for a fight more than six and a half years ago. As a result many observers have questioned Chad’s ability to move down in weight and compete effectively, and not without good reason. After all, boxers who drop weight often become physically drained, and that typically leads to decreased stamina, power, and punch resistance. This has helped create the perception that Dawson will be entering this contest compromised, giving Ward an inherent edge. The fact that this bout is also taking place in Ward’s hometown of Oakland gives the appearance of an additional advantage for Ward.


Ward vs. Dawson: Just the Facts!

by Robert Jackson: The Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KO’s), Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KO’s) fight coming up this Saturday night, has the boxing world energized and offers a main event and undercard suitable for a PPV card. This Saturday night fight will lead off a month of good fights that will extend into October, and onward to the end of 2012. This edition of ‘Just the facts’ will explore the ins-and-outs of 2 fighters characterized as the best facing the best, culminating with a prediction of the outcome.

Chad Dawson trainer John ‘Iceman’ Scully himself a former fighter is a Roy Jones contemporary and at 45 has been training fighters since his retirement in the early 2000’s. Having previously trained Dawson, Scully is very familiar with the Dawson mindset and fight style. Scully’s performance as a cornerman is where the Dawson improvement can be seen. Prior to Scully the only dominant victory for Dawson over a prime fighter was against Tomas Adamek with Floyd Mayweather Sr. in the Dawson corner. After a brief stop by Dawson at the Kronk Gym to train with Emanuel Steward, Scully came on board to train Dawson for both Bernard Hopkins fights – with Dawson winning the 2nd, and showed improved focus, energy and determination to defeat the aging warrior.


Ward: Chad Dawson won’t be fighting a guy in his 40s this Saturday

Dawson vs. Ward - Dawson vs. WardBy Marcus Richardson: WBA/WBC super middleweight champion Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KO’s) will be defending his titles against Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KO’s) on Saturday night on HBO at the Oracle Arena, in Oakland, California. The 30-year-old Dawson will be coming down from light heavyweight to challenge the 28-year-old Ward in a huge fight for both of them. The winner of this fight can move onto bigger and better things with possible payday fights against the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, Lucian Bute and Arthur Abraham.

Ward said to “Chad is not fighting a guy in his 40s. I’m 28, I’m a young man. That’s something he hasn’t had to deal with for a long time, as well as my skill set.”

Dawson has fought a lot of aging fighters in the past four years with two fights against 43-year-old Glen Johnson, two fights against the 42-year-old Antonio Tarver and two fights against 47-year-old Bernard Hopkins. The unfortunate about boxing is that it takes so long for a fighter to become a star that it kind of limits the options of fighters on their way up if they want to get big fights on television.


Prediction: Ward will outclass Dawson

Dawson vs. Ward - Dawson vs. WardBy Emilio Camacho, Esq. First, I offer my apologies to those who requested this prediction sooner. I have been troubled by this competitive fight but have decided to make a bold prediction. If I am wrong, I will definitely
admit it.

Second, I believe both of these fighters are top-notch. Both of them are in their prime, disciplined, proven champions, committed to the sport and are not afraid to face the biggest challenge. As boxing fans, we are lucky because we do not get fights like these very often (did someone say Manny and Floyd?). So, here is how I think the fight will play out.

Round 1 will be slow and both fighters will try to make sense of each other’s rhythm and style. Not much will happen in this round but Ward’s rhythm will simply look better to the judges and he will get this round.