|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 19, 2015|
The Eric “The Outlaw” Hunter saga has been a winding road filled with ups and downs. The great promise that has surrounded him from the beginning has since been tempered with a threat of unfulfilled potential. Everyone knows that Hunter is talented. He was an outstanding amateur, an Olympic alternate, and is the current USBA featherweight champion. But no one, not even his most ardent supporters, know if he can make it to the very top.
Tomorrow night (January 20), he gets his biggest chance so far to prove himself and take a serious step toward earning a world title fight. Hunter, 19-3, 10 KOs, fights Rene Alvarado, 21-3, 14 KOs, in the main event of a (Fox Sports 1) nationally televised fight card from the 2300 Arena in Hunter’s hometown of Philadelphia, PA.
It looks like an excellent match up. Alvarado, 25, is younger than the 28 year old Hunter, and brings world class experience into the ring.
Hunter has had his share of opportunities before, but those chances never steered him toward a career-making fight. Whether coming up big (W10 Jerry Belmontes on NBC Sports Network) or flaming out even bigger (DQ Luis Franco on Showtime), Hunter has merely spun his wheels after each one of his fights.
Some say he has a bad attitude. Some say he’s unwilling to take a real risk. But in 2014, Hunter did two things that hinted to everyone that he may finally be ready to take a big step in reaching his potential.
On March 21, 2014, Hunter won a 10-round decision over Yenifel Vicente to claim the vacant USBA featherweight championship. It was a rewarding night for Hunter and his fans, as he took home his first piece of professional hardware. The win put him into the IBF world rankings and caught the attention of Golden Boy Promotions. By October, Hunter had signed with the promotional powerhouse, and finally appeared positioned to make his move.
“They are the big dogs,” Hunter said of his new promoter. “Something good going to be coming. (I have to) just keep winning.”
He got his first chance to shine under the Golden Boy banner on November 8th, and he more than made good on it. His fight against Daniel Ramirez was a supporting bout on the high-profile Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins championship card. Hunter looked sharp with a TKO win in six rounds with everyone watching.
His success in 2014, both in and out of the ring, appears to have changed Hunter for the better. Normally nervous and paranoid as fight night approaches, Hunter has been nothing but cool and confident this time around.
“Now I’m on a whole ‘nother level,” Hunter said. “Right now, I’m just cool. I’m just ready to fight and I’m just ready to do whatever I do.”
Against Rene Alvarado, what will Hunter do?
“I think I’m going to box pretty good,” Hunter said. “I think my jab is gonna be the key, up and down. I think that my IQ – feigning him, head movement, stuff like that - is going to be good. I think everybody going to see a lot of the little good things that I do. They not going to see nobody running around, because I don’t have to run that much with him. I can just move around a little bit, and just really show my talent.
“Every time he think he going to bust a move, I’ll be ten steps ahead of him,” Hunter said. “Every time he throw a punch, I counter. Every time he make a mistake, I just make him pay. I make him pay, and let him know this is not a game.”
Alvarado is experienced and Hunter knows it.
“I know that he’s going to come to fight,” Hunter said. “I know it. I watched him. I watched a little bit, and I said, damn, this dude has a record, but he’s not that talented. Can’t fight that well, but he do come to fight. You got to give him that.
“I think he’s a worthy opponent,” Hunter said. “He’s tall. He’s real rugged. He’s not going to make my job easy for me. But he’s not a boxer. The only fighter he fought was Rocky Juarez. And Rocky Juarez, as we all know, is over. And he (Juarez) won!
“I know me,” Hunter said. “Everybody know me. When I’m at my best, ain’t no telling how that fight going. That fight might be two, three rounds. He never been knocked out, but I think my boxing IQ is way higher than his. I think it’s going to be my coming out party.”
However, as tough as Alvarado appears to be, Hunter doesn’t feel he needs to bring any special tactics into the fight to assure a victory.
“What’s to work on?” Hunter asked. “It’s not rocket science. He’s there. Overall, I just think I’m going to beat him any way the fight goes. What’s to work on? Just be Eric Hunter. I’m being Eric Hunter.”
But being Eric Hunter hasn’t always worked for him. On two occasions, his famously hot head caused him to foul out during important fights.
“That’s crazy, that’s ignorant,” Hunter said of this claim. “I don’t ever think like that. That’s like saying I don’t believe in my skills. I had times when I was like that. Tripping. And now I’m here. I know how to handle myself when I’m fighting. I know how to be a professional. I know how to dance around that ring when I get in a little bit of trouble.”
He appears to be a new man. So how does Hunter feel about making this new start before his hometown fans and a before national TV audience?
“That’s where I was always supposed to have been,” Hunter said. “I was supposed to be on TV. This is a big fight. A big card. I feel good.”
An impressive win by Hunter could vault him into a truly big fight, perhaps even one for the title. Hunter agrees.
“After I win, I will definitely be rated in the Top Five by the WBC,” Hunter said. I’m already Top Five in the IBF. They moving me. By the spring or summertime, I should be able to fight (WBC Champ) Jhonny Gonzalez. Something big (like that).”
So tomorrow’s fight is a ‘must win’ situation, with no room for error.
“Every fight is a must win,” Hunter said. “I hate when people talk about It’s a must win. EVERY fight is a must win. I don’t give a damn if you undefeated. It’s a must win. There’s no way around it. You got to win every time you step in that ring.
“Everyone wants to see Eric Hunter perform at his highest level,” he said. “And everyone wants to see – is he going to put up or shut up? Is he the real deal? Is he finally going to get his turn to shine? And I think I’m ready for it. I think everybody knows I’m ready for it. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Tomorrow night, the wait is over.