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Michael Hunter Vows To Shine Versus Ignacio Esparza: ‘No Question I Need To Leave A Mark’

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by Francisco Salazar | 

Michael Hunter feels like he has been on the outside looking in.

As Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker have been active and winning fights, Hunter believes he could be just as successful, if not more, if he had the opportunity.

Hunter will face Ignacio Esparza Saturday night at H Live Music Patria en Zapopan, Mexico. The 10-round bout, which will headline a co-promotion between Nueva Sangre, FactorBoxing and No Boxing No Life, will stream live on their YouTube page.

The 35-year-old Hunter (21-1-2, 15 knockouts), who lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, has not fought since September 30, stopping journeyman Miguel Cubos in the second round. The fight took place in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Mexico. Both Zapopan and Tlajomulco are in the state of Jalisco, including the largest city of Guadalajara.

According to Hunter, Esparza challenged him to a fight after the win over Cubos.

“He called me out after my last fight,” Hunter told The Ring Wednesday afternoon. “He thought he could’ve done better against (Cubos). (Esparza) has a decent record and he’s lost to decent opposition. There’s no question that I need to leave a mark and he’s the right opponent to make a statement against.”

Esparza (23-3, 14 KOs), who resides in Guadalajara, has not fought since a decision win over Abraham Beltran in June 2021. The 29-year-old previously fought in June 2019, defeating journeyman Miguel Gomez Flores by decision. His three losses were to Simon Dean, Denis Lebedev, and Enad Licina.

Prior to the fight against Cubos, Hunter had not fought since a split-decision draw against Jerry Forrest in December 2021. Hunter did sign a promotional deal with Michael Reyes and was scheduled to fight Donnie Palmer on June 24 in Lowell, Massachusetts, but the fight fell through.

Hunter did confirm, should he come out victorious Saturday, that he does have a fight lined up on April 14 in Uzbekistan, and possibly one more fight later in the spring.

“I’ve trained very hard for this fight,” said Hunter, who made his pro debut 11 years ago this month. “I’m eager to get back in the ring. I need to get back in the rankings, notably the top 10.

“I’m making up for lost time. I am in my prime. I’m trying to stay active as much as I can. I’m a fighter. I’m a competitor. I will fight anyone.”

Over the last several months, Hunter has competed in the Team Combat League, fighting against other heavyweights. During that time, Hunter has seen the ascension of the likes of Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker. He hopes a fight could be made against either fighter in the future.

There is also a rematch against Martin Bakole, which Hunter won the first fight back in October 2018.

“I haven’t fought anyone because they’re all avoiding me. I watched the fight between Parker and Zhilei Zhang. They were doing things wrong. Zhang got tired. Joy Joyce is ahead of me in the rankings, but they all know I should be ahead of them.

“I’ll fight Bakole again. I’d like to fight Anthony Joshua. The best fight for me would be Bakole. There are a few other guys I would like to fight, including Jared Anderson.”

Hunter is unbeaten in his last 11 fights since suffering his only defeat at the hands of then-WBO cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk in April 2017.

Hunter claims the better man won that night, but he took something valuable as a life lesson from that fight. With the right people around him at the moment, Hunter believes the best is yet to come and hopes a statement win Saturday night will get him back into contender status.

“I learned a lot from that fight. You have to have the right people around, ones that want the best interest and look out for you. Things were happening, and I felt rushed into that fight.

“What’s done is done. I’ve moved on. I have better mental and physical preparations going into a fight. Same with this Saturday. I have the right mindset and want to go in there and get him our of there.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]

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