By Rudy Mondragon
Virgil Hunter began his career as a boxing trainer by coaching youth from probation centers. In order to grow as a trainer, Hunter sought the mentorship of trainers like Bobby Warren, Jimmie Simmons, Charlie Smith, and Tiger Floyd. He has associated himself with the likes of Barry Hunter, Leon Lawson, Tony Morrison, Kevin Cunningham, and Nazim Richardson. Virgil’s growth as a trainer first became evident to me based on the rise of his star fighter, Andre Ward. Virgil’s work with Ward have helped put his name on the map. As a result, Virgil has became the hunted trainer as three big names in boxing have solicited his services in the last 2 years.
This is all important when you think about being at the right place at the right time. However, in the case of Virgil Hunter, that cliche is too simple to describe a man who has worked hard to put himself in the right place at a crucial time in his career. The three boxers are Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo, and Andre Berto. The first two hired Virgil in the fall of 2012 while the latter hired him in June of 2013. These three, along with Andre Ward are the key ingredients that can elevate Virgil Hunter to 2014 Trainer of the Year.
Let’s first look at Alfredo ‘El Perro’ Angulo. He is set to fight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on March 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many are saying that Angulo is a stepping stone, comeback fight for Alvarez. Angulo is being framed as the underdog, which creates major gains not only for Angulo, but also Virgil. This will be Virgil and Angulo’s fourth fight together. They’ve had plenty of time to cultivate a trainer/boxer bond, which will positively impact their training camp. Training Angulo to a win over Canelo can provide Virgil with the first steps needed to be named 2014 Trainer of the Year.
Now, let’s take a look at Amir Khan. Amir is currently the frontrunner to land a mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. All signs are pointing to a Cinco de Mayo weekend scenario. This would be the first time Mayweather fights a fast boxer since Zab Judah in 2006. Although Khan has a questionable chin, Virgil’s fight to not get hit philosophy may rub off on Khan and help elevate him to an upset win against Floyd. Farfetched? Sure. But the speed, quickness, and natural skill is there. Virgil might not have the blueprint, but if he has a formula that works, then he’d be taking another step in the direction of 2014 Trainer of the Year.
Virgil’s next two fighters are yet to declare who they will fight next. Nonetheless, Andre Berto and Andre Ward will fight in 2014 and victories will place Virgil at the next level.
Let’s take a look at Andre Berto. Andre is coming off a 12th round TKO defeat at the hands of journeymen, Jesus Soto Karass. Berto tore the tendon in his right shoulder early that night and was forced to fight with one bad arm. Berto’s attempt at using the shoulder roll defense got him in trouble, but he eventually made adjustments to stay competitive in that fight. He was even able to knockdown Karass before ultimately being stopped in the final round. The adjustments made in this fight show the influence his new trainer had on him. 2014 will be the second time Virgil and Berto may work together. If they land a fight soon, it can be Berto’s comeback night and with the help of the media, Berto could be back in the running for top competition at the welterweight division. Wouldn’t be the biggest of wins, but it will make noise for Virgil as Berto’s reputation as a hungry fighter is still more relevant than say, Victor Ortiz. Training Berto to a win in 2014 will be another reason as to why Virgil Hunter could be named 2014 Trainer of the Year.
And finally, we have Andre Ward, the man who cleaned out the Super Middleweight division. He is BMB’s P4P number two best fighter and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In November of 2013, he outboxed and humiliated Edwin Rodriguez after 14 months of inactivity due to shoulder surgery. Andre will score another win this year if he fights a Super Middleweight, guaranteed! If Gennady Golovkin is willing to move up eight pounds to fight Ward, then it would make for an exciting fight on paper that only favors Ward and Virgil. Another option for Ward is to move up to Light Heavyweight. I’m not saying Ward would challenge and beat Adonis Stevenson or Sergey Kovalev, but Jean Pascal is a beatable option. A win in his first trip to Light Heavyweight can add another highlight in the resume of the potential 2014 Trainer of the Year.
The path is there for Virgil Hunter. With these four big names in his stable, Virgil’s name will continue to be in the media. With multiple wins this year, Virgil will be enroute to having a decorated 2014. As we step into February, BMB fans will have to wait and see if Virgil will have success this year. If he succeeds, mark my words, Virgil will be the 2014 Trainer of the Year.