Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photo by Gary Purfield
West Philly featherweight Eric “Outlaw” Hunter, 17-2, 9 KOs, has finally landed an opponent for his 10-round NABA US title fight, scheduled for Friday night at Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack in Chester, PA. Hunter will face Hartford, CT southpaw, Mike Oliver, 25-5, 8 KOs, in the co-main event on the latest edition of Joey Eye’s Chester boxing series.
The bout, which looks like a good match up, almost didn’t happen. Even though the posters went out and billboards went up featuring Hunter, no opponent could be found until the 11th hour. Finally just five days before fight night, promoter Joey Eye signed Oliver, saving the fight and seriously bolstering the six-bout show.
The other co-main event bout is a good crossroads 8-rounder between junior welterweights Julio De Jesus and Hasan Young.
Everyone knows that Outlaw is one of Philly’s best fighters. He has the skills to make it a long way in the sport, but his professional career has stalled numerous times since it began eight years ago. The past nine months and the near-miss of Friday’s match are perfect examples.
In December, Hunter scored a terrific win over then-undefeated Jerry Belmontes, of Corpus Christi, TX. The bout was nationally televised by the NBC Sports Network, and served as the perfect platform for Hunter’s sizable boxing skills.
Hunter floored Belmontes and went on to win a unanimous 10-round decision in the bout. It was a big win in a fight that the promoters, Belmontes, and some fans thought Hunter might blow, due to his inconsistent schedule. However, Outlaw is always in the gym even when there is no fight on the horizon. Hunter came through against Belmontes, and proved himself once again.
However, the important victory didn’t move Hunter’s career one bit. Instead of leaping to another major fight, Hunter instead sat idle once again. Nine months in total. Some offers came in, but not any that Hunter seriously considered.
“I got offers, a lot of them,” Hunter said a few months after the Belmontes fight. “I still get them. But they’re really not what I’m looking for. I’m not just going to settle for anything. I’ve been doing this all my life. I already have a number of fights under my belt. I’m not just going to let you eat off me. You have to invest. I just came off a great win. These promoters don’t want a fighter to eat, they just want to eat. And I’m not stumbling like that.”
According to Hunter, all of the offers that came were seriously lacking.
“Promises,” Hunter said. “A promise is not good enough for me. Not in this career. I need for sure, not promises.”
Hunter’s insistence on certainty shows how much he values his ability and his potential earning power. However, this stance is also a big part of his stop and start schedule. He wants something from promoters that most of them are not offering. So, Hunter stubbornly holds out.
“I need somebody who’s ready to make millions,” Hunter said. “I’m in this sport to make millions.”
Hunter may well be a fighter who could make it on the world stage. He certainly has the talent. However, if he never does get there, chances are it will be his unwillingness to compromise that stops him. It’s a gamble that he is taking on himself, but it is also a big risk.
Hunter needs to find a balance between getting what he wants and moving forward. Because if he doesn’t land the big fights, and at least take his shot at realizing his potential, it would be a tragedy. There are countless other fighters who have fallen to the wayside while waiting for the perfect deal to come through.
“None of them are Eric Hunter,” Outlaw said.
Hunter feels that Friday night’s fight could be the gateway to what he ultimately wants.
“My goal is to get this belt,” Hunter said.
If Hunter can defeat Mike Oliver and win the NABA title on Friday, an entry-level WBA world ranking comes along with it.
“It’s really just about the ranking at the end of the day,” Hunter said. “All we need right now is the ranking. After I win this belt, my life should be better off.”
The other thing that becoming NABA champion may do is help to keep Hunter active. With a regional championship belt around his waist, fighting Hunter may be more appealing to potential opponents than it is now.
For all his finicky picking and choosing of opponents, it may be true that Hunter might be a little too good to entice other good rising pros to take a chance against him without that belt. In other words, it’s not all Hunter’s fault.
The ranking that comes with the belt, will also help to point Hunter toward future opponents. Winning a regional title, does not offer guarantees, but it sure can help. Perhaps making his next fight won’t take so long.
“As soon as I win this belt, I should also be able to get better money,” Hunter said.
Mike Oliver has lost his last three fights, but those were against quality opposition. He’s beaten an undefeated Gary Stark, a seasoned Cruz Carbajal, as well as many others. Further, Oliver has already won a USBA title and an IBO belt himself. So he brings quality experience into the ring against Hunter.
Now it’s time for Eric Hunter to fight and to gamble on himself once again. He can’t afford a slip up, but fighting is what Hunter does best. Handling business inside the ring has always been the easy part for The Outlaw.
Hunter and Oliver square off at Harrah’s Chester Casino Friday night. The first fight begins at 7:30 PM.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.