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Local heavyweight sets sights on national event

Michael Hunter is ready to get busy inside the ring again.

The 20-year-old Las Vegan last fought in March as part of a USA Boxing competition in Ireland. Since then, he had a walkover in the Nevada Golden Gloves, then had to pull out of the Golden Gloves Western Regionals due to illness.

But the heavyweight says he is ready for the USA Boxing National Championships, which run from June 8 to 13 in Denver.

“I’m ready to go,” Hunter said. “I’m tired of working out.”

Hunter, who will compete in the 201-and-over weight class, is one of five Las Vegans scheduled to fight in Denver. Joining Hunter will be Hasim Rahman Jr., also in the 201-pound division; Jesus Magdaleno, who this month won the 119-pound national Golden Gloves title; Michael Santomanro, at 125 pounds; and UNLV’s Bradley Blankenship, at 165 pounds.

Hunter’s goal is to make the 2012 Olympic team in London, after missing out on a berth for the Beijing Olympics.

That goal could change, he said. But for now, Hunter remains an amateur and wants to make a strong showing at nationals.

“This is a big competition for me,” he said. “There’s a lot of young guys who want to take my spot, so I need to be ready. I’ve been training at Johnny Tocco’s with my uncle (Kevin Henry), and Hasim has been working out with me, and he’s looking good.”

Hunter was contacted by heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s camp to train in Austria with Klitschko, who will defend his IBF, WBO and IBO titles against David Haye on June 20 in Germany, but he declined.

“I was flattered, but I need to fight,” Hunter said.

With a talented group heading to Denver, Hunter said he thinks the local boxers will fare well.

“We usually have one or two at nationals,” he said, “but we’ve got five guys who can fight, and I think we can have a big week.”

BRINKLEY BACK — Yerington fighter Jesse Brinkley will return to the ring July 11 in Reno.

Brinkley (33-5, 22 knockouts), the IBF’s ninth-ranked super middleweight, is coming off a decisive 12-round unanimous decision over Joey Gilbert on Feb. 14.

Brinkley’s opponent has yet to be determined. The fight will be at 175 pounds.

“I don’t want to go back to 168 unless it’s for a title or big money,” Brinkley said. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem moving up.”

Brinkley, who is headed to Providence, R.I., to train, said he ultimately would like to meet Kelly Pavlik or Jermain Taylor.

“I don’t like calling guys out, and I’m not trying to be disrespectful of anyone, but I’ve never had a title shot, and I just want a chance to get on TV and show what I can do,” Brinkley said. “I want to fight the best.”

DAWSON-JOHNSON II? — Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, the trainer of light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, said he thinks his fighter is better off meeting Glen Johnson in a rematch than facing Tavoris Cloud for the IBF title.

Dawson relinquished the belt Wednesday, and his trainer said fighting Johnson again makes more sense.

“Chad’s bigger than the belt, but he’s not bigger than boxing,” Muhammad said. “Nobody wants to see a fight with Tavoris Cloud. But Glen Johnson’s a good fighter, and it would be a good fight.”

Dawson, still the IBO champion, beat Johnson by unanimous decision April 12, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. Muhammad said if the fight happens, it probably will be in October or November.

“We’ll be ready for Johnson,” Muhammad said. “It’ll be an easier fight than the first fight.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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