Michael Hunter: High risk, low reward

“My career hasn’t blossomed yet.”

If it was a perfect world and dreams came true, then Michael Hunter’s prediction as a child would have been realised a long time ago.

“When I was a kid, I thought the least amount I was going to do was get a heavyweight title by 20 something years of age.”

Whatever the twenty number was, the dream should have been at least attempted by now, but the facts are Hunter is 32, he has only had 20 fights and finds himself in a position where he is without a promoter, a fight date (at time of writing) and on the wrong side town in the heavyweight division. Respected, yes. A risk worth taking, not right now.

“For me to be in this position, it’s almost baffling to me,” Hunter (18-1-1, 12 KOs) toldBoxing Social from his car (not driving).

His career is now over the seven-and-a-half-year mark. Notable wins include victories over Martin Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin. Fine performances but nothing that has suggested he has what it takes to topple Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua. Sure, he gave Oleksandr Usyk a solid night’s work at cruiserweight back in 2017 and last December he looked to have done more than enough to collect the biggest win of his career against Alexander Povetkin. The latter fight was ruled a split draw by the judges in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. An opportunity missed. The draw hasn’t moved his career forward in the way that it should have. Maybe his membership of the ‘Who Needs Him Club’ has been renewed for another year because of it. But that was his last fight, a night when Anthony Joshua regained his titles from pesky underdog Andy Ruiz Jr.

Hunter impressed against Povetkin last December – perhaps too much.
Photo: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.

The man on the street might have packed up and moved on from his 9 to 5 job if the opportunities hadn’t come by now or the phone hadn’t rang offering him a promotion. Boxing does funny things to people once it grabs a hold of you. An idea becomes an ambition which can become an obsession. 

“I feel like the least I can do in this career is get a world title bare minimum,” he says in a tone rippling with belief. “That’s always sticking with me, I can’t leave till that happens. I will be striving until then unless some great misfortune happens to me. I’m going to be right there until I break that because I know it is going to come to me. I never not thought any different so for me to be in this position it’s kind of sucky but I know that it’s not over.”

Tyson Fury needs an opponent later this year. Deontay Wilder Part 3 is no more. A dance partner is needed to give the big man some work before the mega-fight with Anthony Joshua takes place over two fights – we’re told – at the beginning of next year. There are no “real” calls about fighting Fury, Hunter says, just a lot of talking. He knows not to get his hopes up. The free agent, having been released by Matchroom, is assessing what options are out there and enjoying his time pondering his next move.

“This is probably the most opportunity I’ve had in my career,” he says during the video interview, his smile never far away regardless of the topic. “I don’t really want to rush into things. I’ve been in bad contracts all my life, pretty much, bad deals or not being fully embraced so I’ve always had the rougher road.

“I feel like my path, after I get the world title, my path will be the hardest path. I will have a true argument to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world because of my path. I didn’t get the same easy routes as Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. I didn’t get the same routes. I’ve had to grind and push through. I’ve had to fight for every situation. Nothing has come easy when it comes to my career.”

Hunter illustrated he belongs at top level against Povetkin.
Photo: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.

Pound-for-pound enthusiasts may have just imploded but a Hunter win over any of the big three does, at least, get him a title and good money or perhaps just greater credibility (if he beat Wilder). Fighting Fury is one of two heavyweight lottery tickets because if you get the call and the deal for a fight then you’ve won for your family before you even step through the ropes.

There is a bit more to it for Hunter. There is history. London, 2006 and an international competition between England and the USA. Fury and Hunter fought, the towering Englishman won but Hunter had some strong words for the current WBC heavyweight champion about that day 14 years ago.

“What I do remember is he quit basically,” Hunter said sparking into life.

“We were supposed to fight twice. He had an excuse talking about something like his ankles and stuff like that. Someone on the day told me he was scared that he didn’t want to fight me again and when he told me that I kind of already I knew that, but he verified that for me. I know what it is, and he [Fury] knows what it is. He was there, his Dad was there, his family was there, I was in their neck of the woods and we were supposed to fight twice back-to-back. One fight, a break in between and another fight the next day. Me and him were the only two heavyweights in the whole duel so for him not show up… he stole my fight from me, he stole my knockout. He knew I was going to knock him out absolutely without a doubt.”

Hunter is arguably the most avoided heavyweight in world boxing.
Photo: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.

Likely water off a duck’s back for the ‘Gypsy King’, but it’s a matchstick with a flame that can be thrown into the fire for the PR people to play with should the fight ever happen. As things stand, 28-year-old German heavyweight Agit Kabayel is the betting favourite to face Fury in December. The former European champion gave Dereck Chisora the kind of loss in 2017 that prompted suggestions for ‘Del Boy’ to quit but then came his renaissance. The career of Michael Hunter doesn’t need a revival, it isn’t on life support, so its description was left to the man himself.

“I would say it’s a flowering one,” he began. “It hasn’t blossomed yet. It’s budding. That’s how it feels. It’s starting to open up a little bit. I think when it’s all said and done, I’m going to be satisfied. I feel like I’m behind in the race when it comes to my peers, even the younger guys before me, guys like Devin Haney who used to watch me in the gym. Gervonta Davis, too. These guys used to watch me box and sparring with their older guys that they looked up to. To see these guys, there is no hate or anything, I’m happy for them. I just need to get mine. I know that I’m long overdue.”

While Hunter waits to announce news of his next outing, one confirmed date for the heavyweight division gets his adrenaline going just thinking about it. On November 21, Dillian Whyte is on a Britain vs Russia revenge mission as he looks to re-establish his credentials as a top tier heavyweight when he faces Alexander Povetkin. Their first fight, which the Londoner controlled and even had the veteran 41-year-old down twice in the fourth round, ended with a knockout of the year candidate with Povetkin landing a perfectly placed left uppercut which sparked Whyte out in the fifth round. Many believe Whyte is coming back too soon. 

“That’s one thing I respect Dillian Whyte for because that is in a fighter’s nature to run it back,” said Hunter.

“It’s righteous, it’s courageous what he’s doing and I think if it all pans out right, he will have cleared all the energy off his back with him being knocked out. In his position, I think he’s right in what he is doing but I think it’s very, very dangerous. I think it’s a very, very dangerous situation.”

Michael Hunter could do with a “dangerous situation” soon. One where we find out how his childhood dream plays out. We continue to wait and wonder.

Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.