By H. Geoffrey
Local boxing trainer Virgil Hunter’s advice to young men on living a healthy lifestyle are recommendations that pack a punch. He began training champion boxer Andre Ward when he was nine years old and has influenced pro-fighters from around world who come to him for advice and training.
“Starting early is important,” says Hunter. “Avoid negative influences such as drugs and alcohol. Remain focused and humble. Spirituality helps to engage a stronger power.”
He emphasizes the importance of vegetable and fruit smoothies as meal replacements avoiding excessive fats, preservatives and toxins.
Hunter began training Ward after his father introduced him to the sport. The trainer vowed to take the young man to the Olympics and then to the professional ranks.
A defense strategist, Hunter’s approach is: “Hit and don’t get hit.” He designed a plan for Ward focused on spirituality, humility, clean living and discipline. Following the plan, the fighter won Gold in the 2004 Olympics and is now the undefeated professional super middleweight champion of the world.
Hunter was raised in North and West Oakland, attended Oakland schools and became interested in athletics early. He took a job in the probation department and trained young fighters in the juvenile hall system.
During that time, he apprenticed in Oakland gyms learning from top local boxing coaches and trainers such as Bobbie Warren, Jimmie Simons, Charlie Smith and Tiger Floyd.
Hunter’s experience with the probation department made him realize it was important to work with potential fighters early before they has been introduced to bad or negative influences.
Among the boxers who have worked with Hunter are Alfredo Angulo , representing Mexico 2004 Olympics; Demetrius Andrade, USA 2008 Olympics; Andre Berto, USA Olympics; and Amir Khan, UK 2004 Olympics.
Like Ward, many of these fighters indicated that their father or important adult in their lives had encouraged them to start early in the gym to burn off steam and stay out of trouble.
The fighters go to camp before a fight, isolate and stay focused. Andre Ward’s spiritual focus has made him known as, the Son of God (SOG).
Now known internationally as one of the best trainers in the world, Hunter will travel to Sheffield, England April 27 to work the corner of Amir “King” Khan, former four time world champion, as he takes on Julio Diaz (40-8), two-time light weight world champion.
In a few words, Hunter sums up his advice: “Your health is your wealth, and when you have your health, you have everything.”