Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Hunter in for the Kill ; American Trainer Looks to the Animal Kingdom to Help Khan Become a World Champ Again

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Hunter in for the Kill ; American Trainer Looks to the Animal Kingdom to Help Khan Become a World Champ Again

Article excerpt

VIRGIL Hunter bristles at the suggestion that he has been enlisted to turn Amir Khan into a defensive fighter.

Spend a short time in the American's company and it is clear that he is obsessed with attack.

During our conversation he references everything from big cats to the Navy Seals to drive-by shootings to explain what it is to be an expert predator.

That, he insists, is what he is trying to turn Khan into.

Rather than dilute the explosive qualities that have made the former double world light-welterweight champion a big ticket on both sides of the Atlantic, he says he will hone them.

Remarkably Hunter describes Khan as unprepared for professional boxing, despite his considerable achievements in the sport since stepping up from a decorated amateur career that saw him win an Olympic silver medal 2004.

Withering Hunter can afford to make such withering assessments.

He was the man Khan turned to when his career was at crisis point. Back-to-back defeats to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia saw him relieved of his IBF and WBA titles and abruptly ended discussions about poundfor-pound bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Instead Khan was in danger of being dismissed while still in his mid twenties. The chin that was ruthlessly exposed by Breidis Prescott in 2008 brought into sharp focus once again following his fourth round knockout at the hands of Garcia last July.

That is where Hunter comes in.

Freddie Roach - the mastermind behind Manny Pacquiao and Khan's two world titles - was cast aside.

The time had come for Khan to concentrate on his defence if he was ever to fulfil his ambition to become Britain's first pound- forpound champion.

And Hunter - who has turned Andre Ward into the best super middleweight on the planet - was the man to take charge of the next phase of his career.

But the Oakland-based trainer is frustrated by the suggestion that he is there to put the brakes on a fighter whose thrilling style has made him a box office success.

"I am surprised by some of the questions he gets," said Hunter. "Have you fixed this, addressed that? But it seems that was what endeared him to people in the first place.

"That's the nature of boxing. As long as you entertain and win it's okay, but when you lose, people criticise you.

"What people don't understand is that when you talk about defence in boxing they think about slipping punches, making the other guy miss and being cautious.

"Defence in boxing is about knowing your terrain and your position. That's all it is. We've both got tanks. We've got a weapon that can do a lot of damage, but if I can position mine better then I have an advantage. It is the same in boxing.

"He just has to learn about position and terrain. Amir Khan gets hit by not knowing the terrain.

It's about the decisions he makes and the types of punches he chooses to throw and the decisions he makes after he gets hit. …

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