Almost Getting to the Sunshine

By Ted Sares on August 10, 2012
Almost Getting to the Sunshine
In what was to become the beginning of the end, drug problems began to consume his life.

Mike Hunter was more than a journeyman; he was a contender who almost reached the sunshine. But somewhere along the line, circumstances took him over the edge…

“He (Mike “the Bounty” Hunter) was another wasted talent in a game that has a lot of losers, and the unfortunate shot at redemption could not override the personal demons that permanently affixed themselves to the life of Mike Hunter.”—Geno McGahee

“To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy.”—Cus D’Amato

Watching 24-year-old amateur champion Michael Hunter (out of Las Vegas) participate in the 2011 Olympic boxing matches brought to mind his late father, Mike “the Bounty” Hunter, a notable professional fighter who by 1990, was ranked in the top 10 by both the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) in the cruiserweight division and was ranked number 18 as a heavyweight by the World Boxing Council (WBC). That same year, the often flamboyant Hunter moved to Australia after his fourth round monster knockout of previously unbeaten Australian heavyweight champion Jimmy Thunder. However, Mike was denied a second six-month residency visa by the Department of Immigration after it came out that Hunter had served a seven-year jail sentence for armed robbery when he was eighteen and failed to disclose it on his visa application.

The boxing career of Mike Hunter began in 1985 after the aforementioned stint in prison. He soon became a highly entertaining heavyweight with an awkwardly effective, unorthodox style, and quick reflexes during the 1980s and 1990s. His fourth round against Thunder features moves seldom seen in a boxing ring culminated by a crunching knockout.

The Bounty Hunter managed wins over the likes of Oliver “the Atomic Bull” McCall, Dwight Qawi, Pinklon Thomas, Ossie Ocasio, and former Olympic gold medalist Tyrell Biggs during a 26-7-2 career. Interestingly, after McCall lost to Hunter, the Atomic Bull went on to beat unbeaten Lennox Lewis for the WBC Heavyweight Championship in London in 1994. The Biggs fight was likely Hunter’s best. Mike had replaced Tony Tubbs, who had been disqualified for failing a drug test, and won a 12-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas to become the USBA Heavyweight champion.

Hunter then proceeded to win the WBC Continental Americas Championship against tough Russian heavyweight champion Alex Zolkin. By October 1994, his slate was an impressive 24-3-2. Though no KO artist, he himself had seldom been stopped. Unfortunately, even though he fought and beat several former world champions, Hunter had been a contender for several years without ever getting a title shot

In what was to become the beginning of the end, drug problems began to consume his life. Hunter beat undefeated Buster Mathis Jr. in a win that could have turbo-charged his career, not to mention bigger paydays. Unfortunately, a positive drug test made it a no contest. Unknown to just about everybody, the Bounty Hunter was blowing a promising boxing career because of drug addiction and a related proclivity for getting into trouble. Losing four of his last six fights, Hunter quickly fell off the boxing radar. In 1996, in his last professional fight and in a bid for something called the IBO Heavyweight Title, he was “stopped” by Danish heavyweight Brian Nielsen in a bizarre fight.

Hunter then began to slide into obscurity. He found employment at the Tru Boxing Gym in Hollywood, California. Working seven days a week, starting at 6:00 AM as a boxing trainer and instructor, he seemingly was getting his act together. But it was not to be, as he was soon released from his job. At age 45, the cascading circumstances of his growing addiction, loss of a job, lack of skills to do anything but train boxers, and failing marriage may well have been too much for him.

On February 8, 2006, the Bounty Hunter, reportedly under some kind of influence, allegedly started an altercation with two undercover police officers on the roof of the St. Moritz Motel in Los Angeles, where he was a resident. Reportedly, he attempted to rob the officers, striking one of them with a gun to the head, prompting the other officer to tackle Hunter to the ground. The gun was pulled and pointed at the officers, and shots were fired. The bullets did not come from Hunter. The gun that he was carrying was a fake. He was shot in the arm and the chest and was later pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on February 8, 2006.

However, as reported in an excellent account entitled “The Knockout Shot” by award-winning journalist Christine Pelisek dated February 22, 2006, in the LA Weekly News, Hunter’s widow and friends were in disbelief over his death, as was his friend, Young Dick Tiger, who worked out with Hunter in the 1980s. “He was a good friend of mine,” said Tiger. “I don’t believe he is dead. I saw him the day before he died pushing a friend in a wheelchair down Sunset Boulevard. I said, ‘I will see you tomorrow.’”

It was a sad ending to a relatively unknown, albeit talented boxer. But Hunter most definitely has a legacy. He held wins over several former world champions and notable contenders. Although he never faced them for the heavyweight title, he won his share of fame, winning the United States Boxing Association (USBA) Heavyweight Championship and the International Boxing Federation Cruiserweight Championship, and he reached the top 10 of the division.

Even with his problems, Hunter was able to accomplish much in his boxing career. Mike Hunter was far more than a journeyman; he was a contender who almost reached the sunshine. But somewhere along the line, circumstances took him over the edge.

As for the younger Michael Hunter, he won the 2011 Olympic Trials and looked to have a solid chance to win gold in London, but he was “defeated” by Russia’s Artur Beterbiev in a decision that further affirmed the incompetence and confusion of Olympic Boxing judges. However, Michael has a style made to order for the pros, and maybe someday he can reach the sunshine. If so, I am certain “The Bounty Hunter” will look down and smile.

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Mike "The Bounty" Hunter | James Thunder 2/2

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  1. TEX HASSLER 04:17pm, 08/20/2012

    Thanks Mr. Sares for a great article and a reminder of the past. There is no way to know how many boxers and others who have been ruined by drugs. Let us hope Mike’s son does not follow that path.

  2. PitBull Petrill 12:42pm, 08/16/2012

    Another gem Ted. Your originality with respect topics is truly appreciated.

  3. Dangerous Angel 12:49pm, 08/14/2012

    Hey Ted , hope all is very well in the land of The Bull.
    Thought I’d drop in and see how your doing.
    Good job on Hunter . I didn’t know that much about him. That fight with Thunder was a real ” You cannot hurt me I will win”  if I’ve ever seen one. 
    No defense and crazy one punch knockout attempts , great fun.
    Think I’ll go youtube more.
    Nice one.
    Dangerous Angel aka Sir Jack Daniels.

  4. Big T 07:01pm, 08/13/2012

    I seen Mike fight a few times on TV and live once. This man could fight…another in a long line of Shouldv’e been a champ…Couldv’e been a Champ..but Not…RIP Champ

  5. the thresher 04:51pm, 08/13/2012

    Rax, spot on

  6. raxman 06:47pm, 08/12/2012

    ted - i think we discussed hunter a few months ago - about the fight with thunder - how hunter came to melbourne and partied as much as he trained. he never had any doubt that he’d beat thunder. in the interviews i saw it was cocky posturing, it was matter fact, jimmy thunder just wasn’t in his league nor did he have his ring savy

  7. mikecasey 05:37am, 08/12/2012

    I remember the Bounty Hunter well, Ted, and how I felt that he could really be something. Mike was deceptively clever - very old school in some ways. A shame that these guys can never knuckle down and avoid dancing with the devil.

  8. the thresher 04:41pm, 08/10/2012

    Thanks, Bob

  9. Bob 04:40pm, 08/10/2012

    Great story, Ted. I hope that the younger Hunter learns from his father’s tragic tale and fulfills his promise.  I’m in his corner - and yours too.

  10. pugknows 09:53am, 08/10/2012

    Nicely done, buddy, but a tad on the sad side. Here is hoping Junior can do well in the pros.

    And I think he will with his style.

  11. the thresher 07:10am, 08/10/2012

    Too many

  12. Don from Prov 07:06am, 08/10/2012

    Good stuff.

    Funny, but I’d forgot that Hunter was for real.

    A tragedy how things ended.  Drugs: Good Lord how many they done in?

  13. the thresher 06:34am, 08/10/2012

    Here is youtube link that shows another spectacular KO by Hunter:

  14. the thresher 06:30am, 08/10/2012

    Naw, I’m just in the zone. That happens and it’s also raining out so it’s perfect time to do some writing.

  15. dollarbond 06:19am, 08/10/2012

    Ted, I thought you were going to slow down.  You are a machine.

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