As we get deep into the summer months, this is when boxing starts to heat up. The heavyweight division continues to stay relevant and not because of the bigger names who seem to be dancing around each other but more so those wanting a crack at the title like Zhilei Zhang, Jared ‘Big Baby’ Anderson, and Daniel Dubois, to name a few. One name that has come off the radar that was on the brink of a title shot not too long ago is 34-year-old Michael Hunter (20-1-2, 14 KOs).
For those unfamiliar with Hunter, during his amateur career, he qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London but was eliminated in the first round by the current unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs). Hunter then made his professional debut in March 2013 against Chad Davis (6-17-1, 1 KO) and earned his first win by way of a third-round stoppage. After winning his first twelve fights, he faced then-WBO Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs) and suffered his first professional loss. Hunter would then move up to heavyweight, rack up seven consecutive wins, and then faced the dangerous Alexander Povetkin (36-3-1, 25 KOs). The result was a split draw, and Hunter moved on by beating Shawn Laughery (12-4, 7 KOs) in 2020 once boxing was allowed to resume after the pandemic. In 2021, Hunter would score a TKO victory in August but run into another split draw in December of that same year against Jerry Forrest (26-6-2, 20 KOs).
After the Forrest fight, Hunter was dropped from the WBA rankings as their top heavyweight, and he wasn’t anywhere to be found, at least to the public. Earlier this year, Hunter was seen joining the new Team Combat League, a sport where “each fighter fights a one-round bout as opposed to the traditional 4-rounds currently necessary for a boxing match to be considered an official bout.” Hunter had to do something as the last eighteen months have been filled with ups and downs.
“If you’ve been watching Team Combat League, I’ve been into that. Prior to that, I was number one in the WBA, and I was supposed to be fighting Hughie Fury (26-3, 15 KOs) for the mandatory position. Fury ended up pulling out, and it was rescheduled again for later down the line, and he ended up pulling out again. Sky Sports and I could never get a full deal going on after that.”
Hunter continued, “It’s been a very difficult thing for me. I’ve had to do a lot of other things. I went to a couple of different training camps to help people spar and was doing the Team Combat League thing to stay busy. Those months I wasn’t fighting, I was in training camp for Fury a few times, and then I was expected to have another fight with Sky Sports, so I was in like three training camps during those 18 months. I have continued that training up to now and never really let off the gas. I’ve been waiting on that call as the only time I do get that call is when I’m not doing something.”
While doing the Team Combat Sports League and staying in shape, Hunter still has the desire to one day become the heavyweight champion. For a fighter who has been inactive like Hunter, most of the major promotional companies will likely wait and see what Hunter has to offer before placing him on one of their cards. In the meantime, he has linked up (non-exclusive deal) with Boston Promoter and Marine Veteran Michael Reyes from Reyes Boxing. Reyes has been one of the busier club show promoters who put on an event once a quarter, either in Massachusetts or now in Florida. Reyes has been busy, and while he is putting together his shows, he is also in the corner of his fighters, who are being called upon as opponents on some of the biggest events with various promoters.
Reyes believes in Hunter and wants to see this thing through. Reyes told ProBoxTV,” Michael (Hunter) is a top talent whose only professional loss was to (Oleksandr) Usyk. He feels like boxing is where he still wants to be. He has the passion and the drive and wants to hold that title. We have come together to drive and push him forward. We are excited being with Michael.” Hunter is just as excited and sees Reyes as being “A1, and he’s not into the whole traditional boxing way where they rob you”. Hunter feels like his relationship with Reyes is a perfect fit and that it will help him expand.
I'm thrilled to finally make my return after 18 months, following Hughie Fury's two withdrawals last year. Losing my #1 spot was disappointing, especially with the endless excuses from top Heavyweights. #BOUNTY pic.twitter.com/MeYv0USiDS— Michael Hunter ll (@MichaelHunterII) June 15, 2023
Getting back into boxing, the last time anyone saw Hunter fight on TV, he had former unified heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in his corner, but he has moved on and is now trained by Donny Townsend. Hunter describes Townsend as an old-school fighter/trainer who’s been doing it for a long time. Hunter, who resides in Las Vegas, NV, works with Townsend out of the UFC Performance Institute, where he trains beside many athletes from the NBA & NFL. He enjoys the high energy at the facility, which reminds him of the times spent at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
The work being put in all leads to the main event he is a part of on June 24th at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, MA. The show is titled “Down & Dirty 6,” which will be promoted by Reyes Boxing. In the opposite corner will be 39-year-old Donnie Palmer (12-3-1, 10 KOs). Palmer isn’t exactly a stranger to Hunter as they both came up in the amateurs together and used to live in Colorado Springs, CO. Hunter admitted that there’s no bad blood between them both but that he does have to go in there and take care of business.
Hunter isn’t looking past Palmer but also knows that the names within the heavyweight division demanding attention keep growing, so now is the time to make his move. Does Hunter have any specific heavyweights on his radar? “I think that any of these guys that are willing to step up. There's not many of them, if any of them. Joe Joyce just lost, but that was a fight that I was interested in before he took his loss. There’s Daniel Dubois, but I may have to fight someone that is a little lower, like (Jared) ‘Big Baby’ Anderson. I’m ready for anybody and everybody at this point. Anybody that is around me, up or down, I’m ready to take out just to show them that nobody is on my level.”
Getting back to Saturday, Hunter expects to do not only earn a victory but also entertain. “I’m going to come out with a nice outfit with the Bounty Hunter theme on it and expect ‘watch the birdie.’ It’s a move that I do when I have my hands in the air. Expect entertainment.” Hunter is coming into this fight on Saturday oozing with confidence, and if he can look impressive, there’s a thought that he can be immediately being injected into the heavyweight rankings. Can Hunter beat Palmer so that fans will once again be interested in his career? Let’s see if Hunter will get ‘Down & Dirty’ on Saturday night to climb back up the rankings.