Boxing trainer, Virgil Hunter is one of the few coaches in the sport who has worked with a star boxer throughout his entire career, as he started working with Olympic gold medalist and two division world champion, Andre Ward from the age of nine, to his final bout at age thirty-three. Andre Ward recently retired after definitively beating former world champion Sergey Kovalev via an eighth round knockout and leaving the sport undefeated with a 32-0 (16KO) record. He also leaves the sport as the world best pound for pound fighter, having attained that recognition with his victories over Kovalev.
In part 1 of my “On The Ropes” boxing radio interview with Viril Hunter, I get his thoughts on Andre Ward’s decision to retire and his views on why now was the right time to hang up the gloves. Hunter also talks about Ward’s opinions had he decided to continue, with fights with Adonis Stevenson and a move to Cruiserweight being talked about prior to his retirement. Additionally, Virgil talks about a possible comeback for Ward and if there are any fights that could bring him back. Here is what Virgil Hunter had to say.
Jenna J: Andre Ward made a big decision in his career and chose to retire from boxing. What talks did you two have that went into that decision?
Virgil Hunter: That was something that we talked about from the very beginning, him retiring on top with his money to live comfortably with everything intact. There wasn’t much more for him out there as far as I’m concerned, even in the light heavyweight division. In the last camp, he and I discussed it even though I feel like he’s on top of his game right now, and he does too. This was just a good time to go, why stay? There’s always going to be money there, so why stay when you set yourself for life?
Jenna J: There were options for him there, there was Adonis Stevenson and the other move which would have been risky was to move up to either cruiserweight or heavyweight. How realistically were any of those fights?
Virgil Hunter: Well, Stevenson can only fight in Canada and there was really no money in that fight. Nobody put up the money for that fight, and once you make a certain amount of money, it’s only right that you continue to stay on that pay scale. Stevenson was not going to bring in that kind of money to the table because he only fights in Canada.
Moving up to cruiserweight and things, that was a negotiation situation that takes time and you don’t even know if it’s going to materialize. That’s what was open to us, either the move up in weight and fight somebody that could bring money to the table, or fight for less money. It was a good time to consider retirement since it was on the books anyways, so that’s what we did.
Jenna J: You know the history of the sport better than anyone, and you know that when a fighter retires, the next guy comes up and establishes himself and then occasionally that old fighter gets drawn back into the sport to fight that younger fighter. Do you think can be lured out of retirement?
Virgil Hunter: No, Andre is cut from a different cloth. He never looked to be a superstar in boxing and I told people from day one when he turned pro, they asked me “Do you think he’s going to be a superstar?” and I said, “No, he will just beat superstars.” He’s not cut that way, he understands life, he’s very mature and he did what he was supposed to do on his money making days, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. So nobody can lure him out of retirement, he’s not going to be that guy.
Jenna J: Andre has a commentary career to fall back on, but do you ever see him getting into the training aspect of things?
Virgil Hunter: No, I don’t see him getting into training. He’s managing Shakur Stevenson, so there’s a possibility that if the right fighter comes along, then he would manage. But I definitely don’t see him in the training part of it. I don’t think fighters such as him would make good trainers anyway. He has broadcasting and he has a lot of ability to start a lot of other things for himself in life. He’s set and I’m proud of him. I just reflect to when he was nine years old and we’d talk about these things, and to have it all come to fruition just like we planned it out, it’s a wonderful thing.