By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
After the Biggs fight, Hunter went on to win the WBC Continental Americas Championship against Russian heavyweight champion Alex Zolkin. By October 1994, his record was an impressive 24 wins, three losses and two ties, with eight knockouts.
Drug problems surfaced toward the end of his career. A win against former USBA heavyweight champion Buster Mathis Jr. was short-lived, as judges changed the decision to a no-decision when Hunter tested positive for an illegal drug. Henry said that Hunter eventually got discouraged with boxing, and his marriage fell apart in 2000.
“Mike was denied the chance to fight for the heavyweight title,” he said. “He wasn’t with the right promoter. He was a contender for five years without getting a title shot. He did everything he could possibly do to get a title shot. He fought former world champions and beat them. He was never knocked out in his career. He was only knocked down once, and then he got up and knocked the guy out in the next round. Time went on and he wanted to do family things. He wanted to help kids do what he couldn’t do. He decided to give his career up and dedicate it to others.”
Last September, Hunter took a job at the Tru Boxing Gym as an instructor and trainer. He worked seven days a week, starting work at 6 a.m.
“He was an upstanding guy,” said gym employee Stephen Hardy. “He had a heart of gold.” But his stint at the gym was brief. “He was let go in December,” said Hardy. Friends said that Hunter was living at the St. Moritz Motel at the time of his death.
“He was a champion,” said Young Dick Tiger, who worked out with Hunter in the 1980s. “He was a good friend of mine. 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.’ ”
HUNTER’S ROOFTOP ENCOUNTER is being examined by the LAPD’s force investigation division, which looks into all officer-involved shootings. Vernon said the shooting looked justified. “He came up behind one of the officers without any warning and hit him on the head. The fight was on. There is no expectation at this point. You defend yourself first. There is no obligation to identify yourself as a police officer before you shoot when someone is already pointing a gun at you.”
However, Hunter’s widow and friends are still in disbelief over the boxer’s death and question whether the LAPD shot first and asked questions later. “He never knew it was a police officer or anything,” said Gwen Hunter. “He was probably assuming he got into an argument with a private citizen.” Said Young Dick Tiger: “You don’t have to shoot and kill. Shoot the leg or hand. You don’t have to kill. The police are allowed to do whatever they want.”
“He would use his fists before he would use a weapon,” added Hardy. “He wasn’t a thug. He was crazy but not stupid.”
Hunter’s eldest son, Michael “The Bounty” Hunter II, is following in his father’s boxing footsteps. The high school senior is undefeated as an amateur super-heavyweight. He will be competing for the Golden Gloves State Championship in Nevada on March 18.
Said Gwen Hunter: “His dad couldn’t do it, but he will become the heavyweight champion of the world.”