The Night of the Hunter

By Robert Ecksel on May 22, 2015
The Night of the Hunter
"I had to do something. I had to protect myself. I was frustrated. I was going to be hurt."

“I can box. I can punch. I can do a lot of things. I don’t have a fighting style. I’m an unpredictable fighter. I’m ready for him though…”

It must be great being Floyd Mayweather. The unbeaten record, the wealth, the cars, the women—it sometimes seems too good to be true and too good to last. But most boxers struggle and struggle mightily, not only to make weight but to make ends meet.

Eric “The Outlaw” Hunter (20-3, 10 KOs), who fights Antonio Escalante (29-7, 20 KOs) tonight in a 10-round featherweight bout televised live on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, no more knows what it’s like to be Floyd Mayweather than I do. But he knows what it’s like to be poor. He knows what it’s like to have an absentee father. He knows what it’s like to climb in the ring, to prove to the world that he means to be taken seriously.

Hunter is, among other things, a Philly fighter. But he’s not a Philly fighter the way Bernard Hopkins or Joe Frazier or Philadelphia Jack O’Brien is a Philly fighter, even though that’s his desire.

“I grew up in West Philly,” Hunter told, “but when I was a kid I was living like down Germantown. But I’m really from West Philly.”

I asked what his childhood was like.

“Rough,” he said matter-of-factly. “I wasn’t around my mom and dad. They had a little problem. My dad couldn’t take care of me, so my grandmom down in Germantown took care of me. Then I moved back to West Philly—and all hell broke loose when I came back out there. I was always a boxer, but I found myself fighting on the street, doing things that I really shouldn’t be doing. So I had to find my way to make it out, had to find a way to make some money. I was wild.”

Hunter hasn’t completely abandoned his wild ways, but boxing got him off the road to nowhere he was on.

“I was boxing all my life,” he said. “What made me stick to it were the people around me, like my trainers. My trainer today, Sloan (Harrison), he kept a good eye on me. He made sure I was cool as far as a kid. He treated me to something a little different. The focus was better. He took care of me. He put clothes on my back, nice sneakers, video games. I didn’t have no childhood. I’m an abandoned child. I never had what other kids had.”

Although Hunter is only 28, he has a decade-long career behind him.

“Yeah,” he lamented, “a long career with no benefits.”

But it didn’t start out that way. Hunter was a stellar amateur who went 187-4. He won numerous tournaments and was selected as an Olympic alternate. When he turned pro on January 7, 2005, with a UD4 over Broderick Harper at Philly’s National Guard Armory, it looked like the sky was the limit. He won his next four fights, three of which ended in the first round. Then the wheels came off the bus. He lost a split decision to 6-3 Carlos Vinan at the New Alhambra and it looked like the future star had plummeted back to earth.

“That was wrong,” Hunter said. “That was wrong. No way I was going to lose that fight coming out of the Olympic Games and lose my sixth professional fight in a fight that I really won.”

Hunter picked himself up, dusted himself off, and won his next 10 fights, earning himself a shot at the vacant WBO Inter-Continental featherweight title. The date was Dec. 3, 2010. The place was the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California. Hunter’s opponent was 7-0 Luis Franco.

It wasn’t the fight of the century. It wasn’t even the fight of the night. Hunter was deducted a point in the second. Franco was deducted a point in the eighth, the same round Hunter was disqualified for repeated low blows.

I asked The Outlaw what happened.

“Listen to this,” he said. “My promoter talked me into taking a short notice fight and by me having a lot of heart I did it, instead of me thinking about the right thing to do. I did it—and it messed me up. I wasn’t ready at the time, as far as being in shape. I wasn’t ready for the fight.”

Hunter paused before continuing.

“To be honest with you, I had to find a way to get out of the fight, because I knew tonight wasn’t the night. It was an amateur thing to do, but I had to do something. I had to protect myself basically. I was frustrated. I was going to be hurt. I was frustrated.”

I know a thing or two about frustration, so I can relate.

Hunter picked himself up and dusted himself off again. He won his next two fights, only to meet Mike Oliver on Sept. 9, 2013, at Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, PA. I watched that fight, which also ended in a DQ, and I’ve seen a lot worse fouls than that. Fighters are supposed to protect themselves at all times, and the referee, the usually reliable Benjy Esteves Jr., looked like his feet were glued to the canvas.

“It wasn’t really no foul,” Hunter told me. “He was trying to hit me. I was backing up. If you look at the tape, I was backing away. What am I supposed to do if a guy in my face? But they asked the ref to change it to a no contest. I don’t really know what happened. I don’t know if it’s boxing. I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t have no love as far as boxing people commentated. They keep bringing it up. I don’t want them to keep bringing it up if they’re not going to speak for me. All they keep saying is this guy has two disqualification losses. But they’re not really telling them the truth. That’s the only thing I dislike about the sport. They don’t tell everything.”

They don’t tell the truth because they wouldn’t know the truth if they tripped over it. Or they don’t tell the truth because they’re paid to do otherwise.

But tonight is Eric Hunter’s night. It’s his chance to reveal a truth he wants everyone to see when he fights Antonio Escalante.

“I expect him to be the same Escalante he been,” said Hunter. “I know he had a couple DUIs, a lot of drinking, a lot of booze. I was hoping he’d be at his best, and I hope he’ll be at his best. It’s just a fight to me. I got my own habits. I can box. I can punch. I can do a lot of things. I don’t have a fighting style. I’m unpredictable. I’m an unpredictable fighter. I’m ready for him though.”

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  1. Philly Bob 08:21am, 05/25/2015

    Shame to not point out with Hunter, is that he always comes off as a poor sport, always makes excuses, and even when he wins he thinks people are against him. He fight against Oliver was a cheap shot and the tv guys called it the right way, the kid is talented, but funny how no where in the article does it make mention that he was dropped by 4 promoters and managers within two years. He might have talent, but he lacks the mental toughness upstairs to be a champ. Kid has to grow up, and a couple of wins does not mean he has grown up. I have seen all his fights with my boys in Philly, we know this kid all to well. Article is very slanted.

  2. Kid Blast 05:58am, 05/22/2015

    Nice title

  3. Clarence George 03:59am, 05/22/2015

    Nice interview.  And it doesn’t hurt that one of my favorite movies is referenced.  Charles Laughton did a terrific directorial job, except for barreling past the sign that read, “Perfect Ending.”  The book is also excellent.

    While Hunter and Escalante will never be mistaken for Pep and Saddler, this could be a decent fight.  It depends on how serious and disciplined the guys are, especially Escalante.  Not that I think he’ll win…Hunter by late-round stoppage or clear unanimous decision.

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