Barry Hunter and the Petersons on the Brink By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Dec 10, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
(L) Lamont and Anthony Peterson
You don't see trainer Barry Hunter in a lot of losing corners. And as it relates to Lamont and Anthony Peterson, since the beginning of their professional careers in 2004, the duo had gone a combined 57-0 as they moved up the junior welterweight and lightweight ranks, respectively. But in the past year, in their two biggest tests to date, they both suffered their first losses.
It was about a year ago this time that Lamont, who faces Victor Ortiz this weekend at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas as the opening bout on HBO, lost in his attempt to take the WBO belt from Tim Bradley. The last we saw of Anthony, he was disqualified for repeated low-blows in September against Brandon Rios.
So close, yet so far.
Hunter laughs when you ask him if he feels like Marv Levy, who coached the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early ‘90s, only to never win the Lombardi Trophy. "It's crazy, man. It has been a journey. It's been one big adventure for me and for the kids. I wouldn't trade nothing in the world- the good and the bad- because, actually, it's all of a part of what you are. Of course, anytime we go into a fight, I'm very confident.. Some would call it arrogance but [it’s] not, it's not that. I've never been arrogant in my life. But I'm very, very confident because I know what it is that we do inside the gym, our preparations and I know the abilities of these guys that I have.
"I'm not a loser; I never raised them to be one and I'm not going to get used to being one."
Hunter, who is one of the most respected men in the game, has the right perspective on things. His gym in Washington DC, the Bald Eagle Gym (which is currently going through renovations), isn't just a facility where fighters workout. In many respects, it's a refuge for many individuals- like the Petersons (whose hardscrabble story is well-documented), who seek refuge from the lure and temptations of the streets.
Still, for any competitor, losing is tough to swallow.
"It's something I'm definitely not trying to get used to," says Hunter, who also trains undefeated middleweight prospect Fernando Guerrero and former heavyweight title challenger Tony Thompson, along with his respected amateur program, the Headbangers Boxing Team. "Throughout my career in coaching in the amateurs and the pros, I've always been successful and I've always been very confident in going into fights. So that's definitely something I want to erase, starting on Saturday."
The first blemishes on the brothers’ record couldn't have been any more different.
Lamont, after being a bit overwhelmed early on by Bradley, fought very well in the second half of that 12-rounder and earned plaudits from the “Desert Storm” himself for his performance.
Hunter says, "It's funny because we've always been in control in terms of the things we've done inside the ring and that's in the amateurs and the pros. So it's very, very rare that we're in a situation where we had to regain control. I think exiting that fight, I think Lamont not only came out of the fight starting to be a better fighter all-around but as a better person in general. Because now he knows that when you get behind, it's not about where you at, it's where you're going to end up. I think he's going to be better next time."
When it comes to Anthony's implosion versus Rios, well, Hunter is still a bit bewildered over what took place that evening in Las Vegas.
"I think a lot of times in our sport, you have these guys- and that's fighters and coaches alike- prepared physically, which you have to train the mind more so than the body because it's the mind that controls the body," said Hunter, who reemphasizes that boxing is every bit a mental pursuit as it is physical. "And what I saw in that fight is that Anthony, physically he was fine; he made his weight, no problem. But I thought that instead of him using more of his mind, he went out there and tried to do it on brute strength. And our strength has always been our connection in that corner, inside the gym. Anytime I couldn't get through to him with my words, I know we were going to have a problem.
"So I think it was somewhere between the second and third round, he got hit with an uppercut and all the strategies went completely out the door. If you remember the first round in that fight, it was textbook; he stuck to the script and it was easy. That's what I was looking forward to, to take him to at least seven, eight rounds and then do what he really wanted to do and that's get him up out of there. But for whatever reason, we had a disconnect and that's definitely something we have to fix."
Fighters always talk about losses being so valuable in terms of what they can teach. The same applies to trainers.
"Yeah, because I'm my biggest critic and before and I can go back, a lot of times, it's crazy, fighter and coach. When a fighter wins, the coach wins. And they accept all the good press, the things people say about them. But the way I feel, I'm a ride-and-die type of guy. So their strength is mind and their weakness is mine," says the trainer. "So, before I look at them, I have to look at myself and make sure that I'm doing everything I need to do. That I didn't miss anything so I can pass it onto them and hopefully, get better off that."
The truth of the matter is, like quarterbacks in the NFL, trainers probably get too much credit when their side wins and too much blame when they falter. And when fighters trained by guys like Hunter are winning fights on the way up, he's considered an up-and-coming trainer. But lose a fight or two as they step up, the whispers start that maybe he can't take a fighter all the way.
Really, while trainers are vital, it's really about the boxer.
Hunter agrees, saying, "You give me a Roy Jones, you give me a Floyd Mayweather, a Sugar Ray Leonard, a Marvin Hagler, these guys will make anybody look good for the most part. And if I had to put them alongside racehorses, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Alydar, Ruffian, put 'em on the track, they're going to run anyway. It don't matter too much about the jockey. Sure, the jockey may have just a little to do with it but for the most part, a horse is a horse and he's going to run.
"On the flipside of that, a lot of times you can lay out this blueprint; if your fighter don't follow the plan to the tee, can you really, really blame the trainer?"
One factor that may have played in part in these losses is that while the brothers were under the Top Rank banner during this stretch, they didn't have nearly the activity they once did at the beginning of their careers.
"I think because we had been so active in the past, timing is the first thing to go and the last to come back. And I think that was our Achilles [heel] for us because the kids stay in the gym, even if they fight Saturday, come Monday, Tuesday, they are right back in the gym. So we prepare to fight; we love to fight; it's what we do. And I think, yeah, that has been an Achilles for us because during our time when we were totally on top of our game, I mean, we were fighting once every month, once every other month. We were on that road. So those are days that I would definitely have loved to have seen."
Lamont, who is just still 26 years old, has since bounced back from his lone loss by stopping Damian Fuller in seven rounds in April. Currently, the brothers are promotional free agents and, as Peterson was offered this opportunity, they quickly jumped at the offer to appear on HBO in a fight that could have them right back in the title mix.
"There was really no hesitation as far as Victor was concerned," said Hunter. “I've known Victor since he was about 15 years old fighting in the J.O.s [Junior Olympics], like so many other kids we’re now about to face. I think it's definitely a fight Lamont can win. On the flipside of that, I don't think Victor is a pushover despite what the people say. As far as his performance, when he fell short against Maidana and the statements that he made, yeah, I think he made that more out of frustration more than anything.
"But they both have a lot to gain and they both have a lot to lose beyond this fight. But I definitely think it's a good opportunity for Lamont, just now we have to finish it. Gotta capitalize on it."