Prepping for the King with trainer Virgil Hunter
By John J. Raspanti (April 12, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © John J. Raspanti)
To WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter, the mindset of a fighter can be more important then his or her physical abilities. Recently at a press conference featuring Ward and his next opponent, Arthur Abraham, Hunter found himself watching Abraham and his people very closely. What he saw didn’t really surprise him, but it did please him.
What did the very wise and clever trainer see?
The Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) versus King Arthur Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) fight is scheduled to take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson , California on May 14. The fight is a semi-final in the almost two year old World Boxing Classic Super Six super middleweight tournament. From the initial six fighters we are down to four, three weeks later Archie Moore like Glen Johnson tangles with Carl Froch in the other half of the semi-final’s. Froch and Ward are both favored to win; with many saying Andre’s fight will be the easier of the two.
Just don’t tell that to Virgil Hunter. Arthur Abraham is dangerous and nobody in the Ward camp is overlooking the former king. Hunter see’s many positives in Abraham’s style, with his power being his number one attribute.
“First and foremost” replies Hunter “is his punching power. You have to respect that. But it is interesting that since he’s been in the upper echelon of super middleweights he’s only hurt one of them and that one (Jermaine Taylor) had been hurt before. I find that interesting, plus he has the strength to win, he’s a winner. He also has the best training facility and the best scientific approach to sports medicine. His program is great, I like the gym they use, I like the whole set-up they have. It’s a place where a boxer can go and not be disturbed, I envy them. They have a first class set-up”.
Ward has been in training for close to three weeks now. Nothing out of the norm, just the typical tightly run and organized camp, but with a trainer who likes to preach flexibility. Hunter prepares the mind as well as the body.
“It’s a mindset” he says “your not just working on the physical part, you getting your mind ready, the mindset is more important then anything”.
Has Virgil watched film of Abraham’s fights? Yes he has, so how does he incorporate that knowledge into his training regime with Ward. Will he speak to him?
“You know what I don't, I'll look for certain things that he's doing to see that what he’s doing will be able to offset what we are going up against. But then again, with someone else I might sit down and go over what I see but with Andre I don't do that, he will make the adjustment as he goes. I don't want to lock anything into his mind. Our determination is to make you fight our fight, and take your fight away from you. I do look at films and I what I really get is a sense of the person, then a sense of the style. I've been following Abraham across the country, his facial expressions, how he speaks, his style is what it is".
How about bringing in some fighters who can emulate Abrahams style?
Hunter pauses and says “I will be bringing in a couple of guys next week...but we can’t quite emulate this guy. I personally think that it can be overrated at times. I think the distance and the height are more crucial, and the rhythm that Abraham brings into the fight. Distance and range, range more then anything".
Will there a different Abraham in the ring on May 14? Not according to Hunter, but he does expect one thing to be different.
“If anything he will be bringing in a new attitude to the table, opposed to a new style”.
Does he expect Arthur to be more active?
“Well that’s what they complain about, that he has to be busier, that could be good and bad for him. We will just have to see...the way he's built and the way he is constructed, if he does too much, I think he will get fatigued. I think he understands his tastes better then anybody so that’s why he fights the way he does. When he senses that you need a break he tries to work”.
Confidence could be a factor too. Ward has beaten former champion Mikkel Kessler, Alan Green and the very tough Sakio Bika. Thirty six rounds and Ward might have lost five of them. On the other hand, Abraham had a pretty tough go with Taylor before knocking him out. He was trailing on all three scorecards against Andre Dirrell, and coming on, before losing his cool and uncorking a right on the chin of Dirrell who had slipped and was on one knee. Abraham was immediately disqualified. Many figured he would knock-out the trash talking (and entertaining) Carl Froch, but found himself on the end of Froch’s jab. Whether he won a round is debatable. Talk of confidence or the lack there of, is exactly what Virgil Hunter noticed recently.
“When I look at him...particularly at the last press conference, I don't think he's sure what he’s going to do anymore, he barely talks. Before though, he was telling fighters what he was going to do to them, he told Froch he was going to knock his head off, he said he was going to stop Dirrell, all Dirrell does is run, run, run, he was very talkative. He was very confident, now...he's been humbled. He has nothing to say, and he doesn't think he's deserving of all the accolades that he was initially getting. You can just sense it and he's wondering what his coach and his promotion team is really saying in private. I will capitalize on that...there is doubt, you can see it in his face”.
Doubt, the worse thing a fighter can have. There is no doubt in Andre Wards camp, they are prepping Wards mind and body for the best that Arthur Abraham can offer, and allowing for some surprises too.


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