Fourteen years later, Central Point’s Wilson gets shot at old foe
It was a Friday night in Colorado, and Mike Wilson couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t the summer heat, since it was only June. It wasn’t a lumpy bed. It wasn’t a heavy meal before turning in.
And, it wasn’t temporary.
“I couldn’t sleep over that fight for a long time,” said Wilson, a Central Point professional boxer, as he sat in his home gym recently, recounting one of the key points in a career that has been lengthy and successful.
The night in question was June 8, 2007, in Colorado Springs, site of the U.S. Championships. Already a two-time super heavyweight amateur national champion, Wilson, through the luck of the draw — in this case, bad luck — was in his sixth fight in seven days as he took on an up-and-comer for the title.
Wilson was six years Michael Hunter’s senior and led by a point, 19-18, to start the fourth and final round. Their once-tactical battle grew physical in the later stages, and Hunter, fresher because he only had two previous tournament fights, emerged with a 25-24 win.
Their careers diverged from there, Wilson turning pro as a cruiserweight in 2009, Hunter following suit four years later.
Wilson has a 21-1-0 record with 10 knockouts and has been the World Boxing Association North American champion for three years.
Before joining the pro ranks, Hunter, from Las Vegas, won a second U.S. crown and represented America in the 2012 Olympics. His record is 19-1-1, the lone loss coming by unanimous decision against Oleksandr Usyk in a bout for the World Boxing Organization cruiserweight title in 2017.
The approaches of Wilson and Hunter have been similar, each cutting their teeth as cruiserweights before jumping to the more-lucrative heavyweight class, but their paths haven’t intersected in the ring in the 14 years since that June night.
That is about to change.
The two will square off in a 10-round WBA heavyweight eliminator bout as part of the Triller Fight Club card at loanDepot Park in Miami on June 19.
The event will include men’s and women’s undisputed title fights with multiple belts on the line, co-headlined by men lightweights Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos Jr. and women super middleweights Franchon Crews-Dezurn and Elin Cederroos.
It will be the first boxing card at loanDepot, home of the Miami Marlins. The pay-per-view show can be purchased for $49.99 at trillerfightclub.com.
The possibility of a rematch against Hunter, 32, was first broached to Wilson in April.
“I’ve always thought that when we got done with our amateur careers,” said Wilson, who turned 38 in February, “that we would kind of meet up again somewhere on the pro circuit. I was just thrilled about it. It’s like unfinished business. Better late than never.”
The fight works well for both sides, but it is not without controversy.
Hunter, the WBA’s seventh-ranked heavyweight, was expected to fight Filip Hrgovic in an International Boxing Federation eliminator. But, Hunter said in a fightnews.com interview, the Triller offer was for more money and better opportunity down the road.
Regardless, he’s been blistered in chatrooms for “ducking” Hrgovic in favor of Wilson.
Wilson, meanwhile, said he was offered a WBA cruiserweight title fight in France this month for a relative pittance compared to the Triller offer. He did not divulge the respective purse amounts.
The WBA and the two camps agreed on a Wilson-Hunter fight, but Triller balked over Wilson’s inactivity. Of course, no one fought for a long stretch because of COVID-19.
“They must have gone down the list and figured that out real quick,” said Wilson.
Wilson last fought Sept. 7, 2019, winning by TKO over Gary Kopas in an NABA title defense at the Jackson County Expo.
Hunter knocked out Shawn Laughery Dec. 18, but it was his first action in just over a year.
Wilson is aware of the chatter surrounding the matchup.
“Oh, you see it a little bit,” he said. “I’m sure I’m the underdog going into this fight, but not in my mind, not in our minds.”’
He noted his ranking as the No. 13 heavyweight by the WBA.
“I think we’re very deserving of this fight,” said Wilson, who had well over 100 victories as an amateur, where nearly all the top fighters established themselves. “Our amateur pedigree and experience got us to where we can hang with anybody in the world.”
Wilson’s biggest fight was in November 2018, when he suffered his lone pro loss by unanimous decision to longtime WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev in a 12-rounder in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Ironically, Wilson and Hunter were reunited in Monaco. Hunter was a last-minute replacement on the card and defeated Aleksandr Ustinov by TKO.
Wilson and Hunter greeted one another with a handshake and a hug, took a photo together and conversed.
Wilson has followed Hunter’s career and cheered for him when seeing him on TV.
“We can all be good buddies before and after the fight, go have a beer together,” said Wilson. “But when it comes time to fight, he’s going to try to hurt me, and I’m going to try to hurt him. That’s just the way it goes.”
The last time, it didn’t go Wilson’s way.
He recalls well the circumstances at nationals in 2007.
Trainer Jimmy Pedrojetti, who, along with his father, Joe, continues to work the corner, had Wilson in tip-top shape, running Mount Ashland in preparation for the altitude in Colorado and putting in vigorous work in the gym.
Wilson felt strong through the week, and even had a day off before meeting Hunter for the title.
But after about the second round, he hit a wall.
“Boxing’s funny like that,” Wilson says now. “A lot of people think in boxing when you get tired, you’re (huffing and puffing). But you’re not breathing heavy, it’s kind of your body that gives out on you, and your legs.
“Your lungs are fine, but your body just doesn’t work. You don’t get out of the way of shots. You see it coming and go, ‘Ah, s—-, s—-, s—-, boom!’ And that fight, I just hit that wall.”
Indeed, in the final round, Hunter landed a howling right to the jaw that wobbled Wilson. It helped the 18-year-old eke out the narrow win, and it left Wilson with sleepless nights.
“That’s just boxing,” said Wilson. “You can’t win ‘em all. You can’t always get the best side of the draw. You’ve just got to work through controversy. Boxing’s a lot like life. You get your ass knocked down and you get back up and just keep plugging along. You’ve got to work hard. You kind of get out of things what you put into it.”
Wilson nearly had another shot at Hunter just two months later in the U.S. Olympic boxing trials in Houston. Kimdo Bethel knocked Wilson into the consolation bracket early in the week, and the two met again for the right to face Hunter for a chance at the Olympic team.
Bethel edged Wilson — who again fought the maximum number of times — by an 18-17 score, then Hunter dispatched Bethel.
Wilson and his trainers have seen enough of Hunter to know what they’re facing.
The heavyweight division suits Hunter, said Wilson.
“He’s quick, he’s really athletic, so all these real big guys, the heavyweights, they don’t really stay busy,” said Wilson. “He kind of just picks them apart and works his angles. I think he’s comfortable with being a heavyweight. He’s faster than all these guys. He’s slicker.”
Hunter has alternated between cruiserweight (200 pounds) and heavyweight (unlimited) as a pro and typically fights at about 225 pounds. Wilson is making his debut as a heavyweight and figures to be about 215.
Wilson is the antithesis of the big fighters Hunter preys on. His speed and footwork serve him well, and the increase in weight and enhanced strength work and conditioning have added muscle to his arsenal.
Moving up a class has also kept his energy up.
Getting down to cruiserweight, “that last little bit, that’s the biggest fight there is,” said Wilson. “Sometimes that’s bigger than the actual fight.”
Personal trainer and boxing coach Jared Maddocks, who was a year ahead of Wilson as they went through Crater High two decades ago, has been enlisted by the team and has been invaluable, said Wilson.
Maddocks, who also works with former two-time super middleweight champion David Benavidez, brought an array of equipment and techniques Wilson hadn’t done before — exercise bands, heavy balls filled with water, a neck rotation device — to strengthen his core, add explosiveness to his punches and improve stability in his legs.
“He’s a guru when it comes to this,” said Wilson, who has trained as hard as ever.
“Coach Jimmy,” said Maddocks, “says he’s never seen (Wilson) hit this hard.”
The team benefited from extra time to train. The fight was originally planned for this weekend, but it was moved back so as not to compete with the biggest thing going in the game: Floyd Mayweather’s bout tonight in Miami against Logan Paul.
When not fighting, Wilson largely stays in shape through morning runs with Jimmy Pedrojetti. In May alone, Wilson logged a whopping 130 miles of road work.
Wilson and Co. have long been judicious when it comes to sparring, believing that unnecessary sessions shorten careers. It’s a reason Jimmy Pedrojetti considers Wilson to be a young 38.
But high-level sparring is a must for a fight like this. With the help of a vast network of local sponsors developed while promoting fights here, Wilson brought in several fighters for two-week stretches to give him work and to emulate Hunter’s style and tendencies.
Among them were Washington cruiserweight Marquice Weston, 15-1-1 with eight knockouts, and Shamarian Snider, a cruiserweight out of Texas who is 9-2-1 with seven knockouts and who fought Hunter as an amateur.
That portion of training is winding down.
“You always get worried as you get close to the fight about getting cuts or things like that,” said Wilson. “We’ll super glue it back together if we have to. We’ve got to get to the fight.”
Ah, the fight.
Wilson is nothing if not confident, a trait he takes into every battle.
Whether he’s the biggest and the baddest in other people’s minds doesn’t matter. He believes he is.
It was that way in Monaco, when he went the distance with Lebedev.
“When you’re sitting in that locker room getting your hands wrapped, there’s not a doubt in your mind,” said Wilson. “That’s a great way to go into everything. When we were in Monaco, I didn’t have a nervous bone in my body. I just felt like, ‘Son of a bitch, man, these guys got it all wrong. I should have put a bunch of money on myself. The joke’s on these guys, man.’”
He’s ready to tell another one. And if the punchline lands, he’ll sleep like a baby.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email@example.com.