• Steve Bunce

Hunter mad to try and change Khan

Steve Bunce October 2, 2012
Amir Khan will link up with Virgil Hunter after splitting with Freddie Roach © Getty Images

I have no problem with Virgil Hunter as Amir Khan's trainer. He knows what he's talking about, he's experienced, and from what I understand he takes no nonsense.

However, he has at least one fighter above Khan in his pecking order, and that means one fighter who will always dominate his commitments. That's fine - but remember the reason we're told Khan left Freddie Roach was because the coach was making Manny Pacquiao his priority.

It would have been nice if Khan said "I wasn't getting on with Freddie, I wasn't learning anything, he didn't help me in a couple of crucial fights - so I've decided to leave him." Instead, Khan and people around him started talking about Roach and his other commitments. A bit more honesty would have been appreciated.

I don't think Hunter is any better or worse than Roach. Hunter is a quality trainer who's brought kids through and is currently working with one of the world's best boxers, super-middleweight king Andre Ward.

However, a warning: if Hunter thinks he's going to suddenly change Khan, then he's mad. When Roach started with Khan after the first-round demolition by Breidis Prescott, there was a lot more scope for making tweaks.

Roach has been teaching him things ever since. All Hunter can do is make sure that when Khan leaves the changing room, he hasn't left his brain behind. Khan needs to be told not to fight like a fool. Hunter must do what Angelo Dundee did with George Foreman: remind him what he has forgotten. If you hear Khan and Hunter saying how much is being learned, then trust me, they're lying.

Will Khan listen to Hunter, having apparently stopped listening to Roach? Well, it's a chicken-and-egg situation: did Roach stop bothering, causing Khan to stop listening - or did Khan decide a while ago he'd had enough? Perhaps there's nothing to suggest Khan is a bad listener.

Roach was the flavour of the month after he initially turned Khan's career around; Hunter will be when Khan wins his first fight under him. But if and when Khan struggles in a rematch with Lamont Peterson or Danny Garcia, then Hunter will be sacked because he's spending too much time with Ward. That's boxing for you.

Khan is at the stage now where, once again, he has a great trainer in his corner. He's relying on Hunter to give him timely reminders, and produce strategies on the fly during the 60 seconds between rounds.

Khan needs to be told to keep his hands up, not lunge forward when throwing shots, and to pick his punches better. No disrespect, but an 11-year-old boy will hear that not long after his first trip to a boxing gym. So I say it again: Hunter can't teach him anything.

Dundee wasn't the greatest trainer in the world in the sense he got up at 5am and went running with fighters - he didn't have to. He didn't do 500 rounds on the pads or watch hundreds of rounds of sparring. In the hours before a fight and minutes between rounds, that's when he helped his fighters. Hunter must be similar, because at the moment Khan is losing bouts before a punch has been thrown.

My gut feeling is that the Hunter appointment means at least two bouts in America for Khan and, assuming he gets a good world title, down the line he could meet Ricky Hatton in England. If there's a reason for a super-fight in Britain, there will be one. At the moment there's no real reason for Khan to enter the ring in Britain.

Carlos Molina, his December opponent, wouldn't have been my choice - but then I'm not one of Khan's paymasters at HBO. The network will want a good fighter: they won't let him come back after two defeats against cannon fodder. They're going to make it look like a real contest.

Molina is unbeaten, which always works: that's what TV executives want. There are far better fighters who have lost a couple - but they don't have that precious unbeaten record.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.