By John DiSanto – Philly Boxing History (.com)
West Philly enigma Eric “Outlaw” Hunter, 16-2, 9 KOs, has been riding his reputation as one of Philly’s best fighters for a long time now. He showed enormous promise both as an amateur (he was an Olympic alternate with a staggering 187-4 record), and as a young professional. However, his pro career has been marred by frequent layoffs and generally soft competition. He’s destroyed many of the boxers he’s faced and looked ready to make his statement as a pro, but then fell terribly short when he stepped up against Luis Franco in a 2010 battle of prospects on Showtime. It was a fight he thought he should have won.
“I took it hard,” Hunter said. “I think I really should have won that fight. But (if) you take fights on short notice and take opponents lightly, that’s what happens.”
Hunter returned from that poor showing with a nice TKO win this past July, and vowed that he’d keep his career on track.
He gets a chance to make good on that promise this Saturday, December 8th.
Hunter will face the best opponent of his pro career in Texan Jerry Belmontes, 17-0, 5 KOs. Their 10-round fight will be the nationally televised co-feature at Temple University’s Pearson / McGonigle Halls, on the latest edition of NBC Sports Network’s “Fight Night” live boxing series.
The bout feels like “do or die” for Hunter. It is a real crossroads fight that will force him to live up to his potential or see his reputation tarnish. A loss could knock him back permanently, but a win might finally prove to everyone that he and that sterling reputation are the real thing.
Like Hunter, Belmontes too was an outstanding amateur. He posted a career amateur record of 119-18, and made it all the way to the Olympic trials. As a pro, the “Corpus Christi Kid” has defeated everyone in his path, and posted a solid unanimous decision win over Joselito Collado in his most recent bout.
Belmontes brings experience, and advantages in height, reach and age into the bout. He is also the naturally bigger man, having fought as a junior lightweight in most of his professional bouts. But Belmontes’ biggest strength is his attitude. He is a very real prospect who has his own serious designs on a world championship. He sees the bout with Hunter as a possible bridge to a title bout, and is not approaching the fight just hoping to get by. He wants Hunter’s scalp.
The fight was originally slated as a comeback opportunity for Philly’s Teon Kennedy. However, Teon was forced to pull out due to an injury. The change of opponents, disappointed Belmontes.
“Man, I wish I would have fought him (Kennedy), but Eric Hunter is the next best thing for me,” Belmontes said. “Teon Kennedy is a known fighter, and I think that would have shot me up to fight for a world title faster. Eric Hunter still has a name. So this fight will get me up there too.”
It is a sure bet that no other fighter has approached a fight with Eric Hunter with this attitude. Hunter has been a respected and even feared fighter throughout his career. Many of his foes were mentally beaten the moment they signed to fight him. Belmontes, on the other hand, may respect him, but he certainly doesn’t show any fear.
“I remember him from the amateurs,” Belmontes said. “Great amateur guy. I think I’ve seen him fight two times as a pro. So I know a lot about him.”
The original match of Teon Kennedy and Jerry Belmontes was a good one. However, this revised pairing should be even better. There is a real feeling of chemistry between Hunter and Belmontes. It feels like a natural fight.
Coming off his June title fight loss, Kennedy would have had something to prove against Belmontes, but Eric Hunter has even more on the line. This pressure will make the fight a good one. I think even better than Kennedy-Belmontes could have ever been.
Hunter has a chance to validate his whole career on a single night. That’s a lot to deal with, but if he’s the fighter that so many think he is, then this should be his moment.
But Hunter says that he’s not feeling the pressure.
“It ain’t that much pressure for me,” Hunter said. “The pressure is really on him. Can he get past me? He’s the one that’s undefeated. I’m not. He’s got to show what he’s about. They already know I can fight, but they know I was lacking when I got my opportunity (vs. Franco). I’m just trying not to let an opportunity slip away this time.”
Clearly Hunter is taking the fight seriously. In the past, he’s cited hometown distractions as some of the causes for his inconsistent fighting schedule. Like many other boxers, he’s let the lures of everyday city life cloud his focus. However, for this fight, he bolted West Philly and his usual training place of Shulers Gym, for training camp in Washington, D.C. Although he didn’t say it, it seems he knows the fight is one he must win.
“They gave me an opportunity, and I’m here to take my throne back,” he said. “I just looked at it as an opportunity to get my name back out there.”
A win over the highly touted Belmontes would do exactly that, especially since the fight is on national TV.
“I don’t know too much about him,” Hunter said. “One thing I do know is that they have been hyping him up. Anytime they talk about a fighter so much, that’s who you want to fight. You want to knock him out. So that’s what I’m here to do. I know he’s a good fighter and all, but my talent speaks. It’s all about skills. When I’m at my best, my talent’s going to speak. I’m just here to do a job. He came to my city. I’m here to take my throne back.”
Hunter bristles with confidence when he talks about the fight. He’s cocky, but extremely likeable. It all fits together into that well-established reputation of his.
A lot of the talk about fighters is just talk. However, it seems that discussions about Hunter are more than that. People believe in him. I’ve heard Hunter’s praises sung by knowledgeable fight fans, distinguished former fighters, and even manager/promoter types who said they would never match their guys against him. In other words, many people feel that Eric Hunter is the real thing.
Now it’s time for him to prove it to everyone – in the ring.
Belmontes will pose a serious challenge, but Eric Hunter can beat him. Outlaw has looked sensational at times, and this is a time when he must look that way again. He really needs to do it against Belmontes on Saturday night. Everyone will be watching, and everyone will be judging.
This is the moment of truth for Eric Hunter. The buildup to boxing matches don’t get better or more exciting than this.
The entire fight card is a good one, but I have my eye on this fight as the one above all the others that should not be missed on Saturday night. Something is going to happen, and Eric Hunter’s career is hanging in the balance.
“I’m just looking forward to it,” Hunter said. “We young. We both hungry, and I’m looking forward to putting on a good show. I will do it. I’ll do my job.”
To read more on the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.