Exclusive interview by James Stillerman – Consensus top-ten heavyweight contender Michael “The Bounty” Hunter Jr. (18-1-1, 12 KOs) is looking for significant fights in 2021, but in the meantime, he will stay busy and take on late replacement Shawn Laughery (10-3, 6 KOs) in a ten-round, co-feature on December 18th at the Galveston Island Convention Center in Galveston, Texas.
The thirty-two-year-old orthodox fighter from Las Vegas, Nevada is unbeaten in seven fights (6-0-1) as a heavyweight, with notable victories over Alexander Ustinov and previously undefeated fighters: Martin Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin. In his last bout, he fought to a twelfth-round split decision draw against WBC Interim world heavyweight titleholder Alexander Povetkin, in a fight that a lot of boxing fans believed he won.
He is ranked in the top-ten by all four major sanctioning bodies: fourth by the IBF, seventh by the WBO, and tenth by the WBC and WBA, as well as eighth by The Ring magazine’s independent ratings.
Hunter won his first twelve bouts before he sustained his lone loss, a twelfth-round unanimous decision to undefeated, former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO cruiserweight title.
He had a heavily decorated amateur career, which included an impressive 132-12 record and culminated with him becoming the only two-time American Olympic heavyweight (2008 and 2012). In 2008, Hunter was an Olympic representative and in 2012, he got eliminated in the first round by undefeated IBF and WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, via a triple tiebreaker. He won the 2012 United States National Championships and 2011 National Golden Gloves as a heavyweight. Hunter earned a silver medal at the 2006 National Golden Gloves and a bronze medal at the 2006 World Junior Championships, as a super heavyweight and heavyweight, respectively.
Hunter was gracious enough to take time out of his busy training camp to discuss with me his upcoming fight against Laughery, what the first quarter of 2021 will look like for him, his thoughts on the Povetkin fight and a potential rematch, why Matchroom did not renew his contract, his thoughts on his career thus far, and much more.
James Stillerman: What are your thoughts on your new opponent Laughery?
Michael Hunter: I think that he might be more dangerous than my previous opponent because he is more lively, he is a southpaw, and a little more unpredictable than my previous opponent Chauncy Welliver.
James Stillerman: How do you think this bout will play out?
Michael Hunter: I hope to get the knockout. I will not go for it in the first-round. I will come from it from a boxing standpoint.
James Stillerman: I have heard that you have potential fights lined up for January and February, is that true?
Michael Hunter: We are still working out the particulars for these fights. Nothing is official just yet. I am looking forward to staying very busy in the early part of 2021. I want to fight at least three times in the first quarter. I want to set the tone for the early part of the year and then see where I go from there. I have some decent fights that are ahead of me like Filip Hrgović, Martin Bakole, who called me out last week, and a Povetkin rematch is still a possibility.
James Stillerman: Did you believe that you defeated Povetkin?
Michael Hunter: I think I won. I should have come away with the victory. I had more energy, I set the tone earlier in the fight and I finished strong. I thought I did enough to definitely get the win.
James Stillerman: Is there any talk about fighting Povetkin in a rematch?
Michael Hunter: Not necessarily. Povetkin has a couple good fights left in him. I would like to entice him by going to his hometown of Saint Petersburg, Russia and compete with him there. They have not really approached me just yet, but the coals could get hot.
James Stillerman: Is there any particular fight that you want?
Michael Hunter: I am open to negotiations with any and everyone. There is no specific fighter or company that I am aiming for. I like the free agency right now, especially if I can get a couple of fights early in the year. As a free agent, it will help me win the negotiations when these big fights come to fruition.
James Stillerman: Would you be open to fighting on Gilberto Ramirez’s Zurdo Promotions fight cards in the future?
Michael Hunter: We have spoken about it, but they want to see how the first fight turns out and then we will go from there. Ramirez has spoken about fighting Bivol and Bivol has the same manager as Povetkin, so that was something that we have talked about doing for a show, maybe in Mexico City. To me, it does not matter where the fight happens. That would be a big headliner that would hold its weight. These are some of the ideas that they have thrown around. They know I am flexible and willing to fight anywhere against anyone. It is just something that we have talked about, nothing on paper just yet.
James Stillerman: Why did not Matchroom renew your contact?
Michael Hunter: They had a hard time finding fights. A lot of their fighters have these issues, but they do not find out until they get signed. It was like pulling teeth to get fights. I think it had something to do with that and they made a mistake with Anthony Joshua fighting Andy Ruiz and the whole COVID situation and these were three major things that they did not see happening in the future, so they had to make some adjustments, and I was one of the fighters they let go.
James Stillerman: Was there any discussion of you fighting Anthony Joshua instead of Andy Ruiz?
Michael Hunter: I was the 7-1 favorite by William Hill [William Hill Race & Sports Book] to fight Joshua. Andy Ruiz was not even on that list. Matchroom sent me offers for the fight. I said that I would fight for pennies on the dollar, for very cheap. They already knew that I would fight, but they put me on the backburner and then choose Ruiz.
James Stillerman: Have any promoters tried to become your promoter?
Michael Hunter: I have tons and tons of different offers. I live in Las Vegas and Top Rank is down the street from me. There have been some talks with Top Rank and I, but I am exercising my free agency. I am not rushing into anything right now,
James Stillerman: What are your thoughts as to how your professional career has gone thus far?
Michael Hunter: At the end of the day, I am going to have the strongest claim to be the best pound-for-pound fighter when it is over. I do not think that a lot of guys could have endured what I have had to endure. I am up against A-side, grass-fed fighters and I have always had to get my food. Even when I was with Al Haymon, I was always fighting boxers who had great trainers like Ronnie Shields, Buddy McGirt, and Freddie Roach and it did not make sense that I was the only two-time American Olympic heavyweight and I never got the opportunities that I felt I deserved.
James Stillerman: What did you learn from your loss to Usyk that makes you a better fighter today?
Michael Hunter: I think it has a lot of do with the team. Even though boxing is an individualist sport and I am the only one in the ring, it still takes a team to get ready. I was lacking a team and since then, I have corrected that problem and have built the right people around me.
James Stillerman: What made you decide to move up to the heavyweight division and not pursue another world title shot at cruiserweight?
Michael Hunter: My dad [Mike Hunter was a professional fighter with a 26-7-2, 8 KOs, 1 ND record and beat Oliver McCall and Dwight Muhammad Qawi], was a heavyweight who fought at cruiserweight. Growing up, nothing was better than being the biggest and baddest man on the planet. The heavyweight was that division. I grew up watching the heavyweight division. I started both of my careers, amateur and professional as a heavyweight. I dropped down in weight and then came up in weight. I am more accustomed to fighting as a heavyweight. I prefer fighting bigger guys.
James Stillerman: Has your torn rotator cuff healed?
Michael Hunter: It has healed. I have had a lot of rehabilitation since my last fight. I fought with a torn rotator cuff against Povetkin, as well as in a couple of fights before that. That is the way that business is done. I did not have time to heal up and prepare, so I crunched those fights out with a torn rotator cuff, but now I have been able to rehab with the time off due to COVID. Everything is all good. I did not need any surgeries.
James Stillerman: What was your greatest amateur accomplishment?
Michael Hunter: Being able to get to the Olympics twice (2008 and 2012) and getting to compete on that stage was the ultimate accomplishment for me even though I did not win a medal. It was a great honor to fight for your country, the United States of America.
James Stillerman: What makes you such a great fighter?
Michael Hunter: Boxing is a family thing for me, so I have a lot of boxing experience by being around the sport. My brother, father, mother, uncle, and grandparents are all involved in boxing. I have a good boxing background. I grew up in the gym even though I started my boxing career late. I have had three generations of boxing in my family.
James Stillerman: Who is the better boxer, you or your brother Keith (12-0, 7 KOs in the super lightweight division)?
Michael Hunter: We both have beautiful attributes. I am technically more sound due to my amateur background. But he has the capabilities and is very tall for his weight class, so he punches down on his opponents, whereas I am punching up to my opponents.