Virgil Hunter: As the undefeated Mario Barrios prepares to defend his WBA World 140-pound title against unbeaten two-division champ Gervonta “Tank” Davis on Saturday night on SHOWTIME, his famous trainer talks down the Sweet Science.
This Saturday, June 26 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, WBA World Super Lightweight Champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) defends his title against two-division champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (24-0, 23 KOs). SHOWTIME pay-per-view will air the PBC event live (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The Fundamentals With Virgil Hunter
Since 2016, Barrios has been coached by Virgil Hunter, who has guided the 26-year-old to a string of ten stunning victories, nine of which have come by knockout.
Hunter is a boxing icon best known for training Olympic gold winner and Hall-of-Famer Andre Ward throughout his amateur and professional careers. Hunter has also worked with Amir Khan, Andre Berto, Abner Mares, and a number of other athletes.
Hunter took time away from Barrios’ training camp to share his extensive knowledge of boxing fundamentals.
It All Begins with a Jab
The number of knockouts for Barrios has increased dramatically since he began working with Hunter. This can mostly be credited to Barrios’ improved understanding of how to improve his shot’s accuracy and leverage.
“Mario’s jab is improving all the time,” Hunter said. “He’s getting the hang of range and distance.” [His jab] has been a huge help to him, and we’re working hard to improve it.
He has a rangy, wiry build.” When he punches, he uses fast-twitch muscles, giving him good leverage. Another factor is that he was born with a natural ability to punch. The more accurate the punch, the more effective it is. As a result, we concentrate on his accuracy, leverage, and timing. All of them are strategies for increasing the punch’s strength.”
Positioning and Footwork | Virgil Hunter
In September 2019, Barrios battled Batyr Akhmedov in a gruelling bout. Despite the arduous nature of the fight, Barrios was able to set up his blows with superior foot positioning, injuring and dropping Akhmedov twice.
That battle confirmed to me that Mario maintains his power late in the fight and can withstand a tough fight,” Hunter remarked.
The main goal is shadowboxing to [better] footwork, muscle memory, and to execute particular in-and-out drills, lateral drills, until it’s just locked in.
Shadowboxing is essential.” It allows a fighter to keep his attacking and defensive form even when he is exhausted. His form will not be harmed by the endless shadowboxing rounds. Even when he’s tired, he’ll keep his form.
Hunter requires Barrios to practise shadowboxing on a daily basis. Though the amount of rounds fluctuates from day to day, Hunter makes sure Barrios completes at least five.
He’s mostly left to himself to get into his own mental flow,” Hunter added. “However, every now and then I give recommendations.” It only helps the fighter not to come apart when he’s tired and fatigued if he realises the value of it.
At All Times, Keep Yourself Safe
Defensively, you can always improve a fighter,” Hunter added. “There are some eye drills you can do and different looks you can give him in sparring. His sparring partners used a variety of attack styles. All of this improves his defensive powers.
Barrios may be seen extending his lead hand after shooting a combination in some of his recent battles. Hunter explained why this elite strategy is used.
“It’s a defence mechanism,” says the narrator. It tells you how far away your opponent is. It also serves as a deterrent to the opponent, giving him the impression that he must go through something. So it’s designed to pause the attack for a fraction of a second while Mario adjusts his position.”
Virgil Hunter Controlling the Distance
Many fighters struggle to figure out how to make the most of their height and reach while fighting inside a certain range. Hunter discussed why and why an intelligent, tall fighter like Barrios could opt to take an unconventional strategy.
“I’m not going to fight tall, but I’m going to fight long.” “He’s not standing straight up—bending he’s his legs,” Hunter explained. “A shorter fighter can go below his position and also go over the top easier since you present a bigger target if he’s standing tall. You must pass through him rather than under or over him if he is down in his legs.”
Hunter underlined the importance of practise when teaching a tall fighter like Barrios how to fight well on the inside, as with any skill.
It’s a matter of knowing your distance and range in drills, shortening punches, and not fighting tall—despite the fact that he has a height advantage over most of his opponents.” That is the value of being in the right place at the right time.
As long as he’s striking his body and bringing himself closer to the body, he’s in the ideal posture.” It keeps him in a position where he can reach both his head and his torso from a single stance. Rather than standing tall and dipping down to hit the body, he’s already down there and can hit both the body and the head.
A fighter usually has one body punch that he can use effectively. Some of them have effective body punches with two hand blows. So you offer him drills to improve it, whether it’s with one hand or both.”
Mindset of a Champion
Hunter believes that the keys to success are practise, focus, and a complete range of tools.
The idea is that you take what he does well and make it great. You make good what he doesn’t do so well. When you put all of those things together, you get a well-rounded warrior.”
Hunter is frequently heard on fight night encouraging his fighters to stay focused. He explained why it is so important in the ring.
You can deal with the adversity that comes your way if you keep your mind on what’s going on inside the ring.” When you lose attention, you lose track of what is going on around you. Whatever the situation, you must remain attentive and aware of what is happening right now.
As long as you can keep that fighter in that role, you’ll always have a chance to win that particular competition.
Barrios down Akhmedov twice during their gruelling fight, including once in the final round.
It was a battle for growth.” He’s gotten a lot better as a result of it, and he’s learnt a lot of new stuff. However, it demonstrated to me that he is always in the fight because he carries his power late and has the mental tenacity to withstand a bout like that.
Hunter also talked about how creating trust pays off in the long run
Since we’ve gotten together, we’ve become closer. It assists Mario as well as myself. We have faith in one another, and he has grown from that base. Mario is a fantastic learner, and it all comes down to trust. I never ask him to do something he hasn’t done previously. He’s confident in doing it as long as I tell him that.