Now that Michael Hunter has achieved his goal of making it to the Olympics, the Las Vegas heavyweight has a new objective before making his run at the medal podium in London come August.
Hunter wants to stay healthy over the next nine weeks leading up to the Olympics, which begin July 27.
“I want to stay alive, healthy and injury-free,” Hunter said last week at the H.I.T. Factory gym on Paradise Road. “I’m going to train here (in Las Vegas), stay home, make sure I get my rest and be ready when we leave for England (July 14).”
Hunter, 23, qualified for the Olympics at the recent Americas tournament in Brazil, going unbeaten and winning the gold medal. His biggest fear while in Rio de Janeiro was getting robbed by the judges. Hunter’s adviser, Mustafa Ameen, was robbed while in Brazil, as thieves broke into his hotel room and stole his passport.
“I wanted to make sure I got off to a fast start in each of my fights,” he said. “I was actually trying for the knockout each fight; it never came. So I adjusted and used my jab, and that seemed to sit well with the judges.”
Hunter said he also had to adjust to the climate and the food in Brazil, and he wasn’t always 100 percent physically. But he has been to England before and doesn’t anticipate any problems.
“I think it will help, being able to speak the language and having been there before,” said Hunter, who will spend the week before the Olympic competition in Amir Khan’s hometown of Bolton and train at Khan’s gym. “My goal hasn’t changed – I want to be standing on the podium in London with the gold.”
Hunter is looking forward to the Olympic experience.
“I’ve watched the ceremonies on TV, and I always dreamed what it would be like to walk into the stadium,” he said. “Now I’m going to get that opportunity. I can’t wait to meet all the athletes.
“I’m really hoping to meet LeBron (James). I think it would be really cool to meet him.”
Hunter said he’s fine with Basheer Abdullah taking over as the head coach for the USA Boxing Team. Abdullah recently replaced Joe Zanders.
“It won’t really impact what I do,” Hunter said. “I know Coach Basheer, and he’s good. But I’ve got my team, and I’m working with Kenny Crooms here in Vegas, and we’ve got our game plan for the Olympics.
“I’ll be ready to fight come July, trust me.”
■ KHAN FIGHT IN VEGAS – While Hunter will spend July 14 flying to England, Khan will be working that night in Las Vegas, as he will face WBC junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Khan (26-2, 18 knockouts) was supposed to fight Lamont Peterson last week, but the bout was cancelled after Peterson failed a drug test.
Garcia (23-0, 14 KOs) was selected as the replacement, and the fight originally was going to be held July 7 in Anaheim, Calif. But Golden Boy Promotions didn’t want to go head-to-head with UFC 148 that night and opted to push the fight back a week and have it in Las Vegas, where HBO will televise it.
“HBO originally didn’t have an opening for July 14, but once (Juan Manuel) Marquez’s fight fell out in Texas, they came to us and asked us to move to the 14th,” Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said. “We were going to still have it at the Honda Center, but when I heard Mandalay Bay had that date open, we moved it there.
“It’s the right thing to do since they had the original fight with Peterson. But I think it will do well with Danny Garcia. He’s a hungry, young fighter with a title, and it’s a dangerous fight for Amir. But if you want to dominate the junior welterweight division, this is the kind of fight you have to take.”
Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. June 4 at the Mandalay Bay box office and through Ticketmaster.
■ OFFICIALS NAMED – Three world title fights will be on the undercard of the bout pitting WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) against Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) on June 9 at the MGM Grand Garden.
The Nevada Athletic Commission selected Tony Weeks to referee the IBF welterweight title fight between Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) and Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs). The judges will be Dave Moretti, Ricardo Ocasio and Jack Reese.
Kenny Bayless will referee the WBO super bantamweight title fight between Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) and Jesus Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs), with Adalaide Byrd, Dick Houck and Patricia Morse-Jarman serving as the judges.
The WBA super bantamweight title fight between Guillermo Rigondeaux (9-0, seven KOs) and Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, seven KOs) will be officiated by Russell Mora, with Lisa Giampa, Glenn Trowbridge and Pat Russell working as the judges.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.