Virgil Hunter’s boxing IQ has been credited for helping make unbeaten super-middleweight champion Andre Ward the fighter he is.
Now, CBS is counting on Hunter’s ring intellect to better educate new fight fans drawn to the network’s debut broadcast of Premier Boxing Champions. The opening card is Saturday at noon Pacific time, live from Quebec City.
In the main event, light-heavyweight Adonis Stevenson (25-1, 21 knockouts) of Canada will defend his World Boxing Council belt against Sakio Bika (32-6-3, 21 KOs).
CBS Sports Network’s Brent Stover will host the broadcasts, while Kevin Harlan will call the blow-by-blow action with Hunter and former welterweight world champion Paulie Malignaggi serving as ringside analysts.
Hunter said he consulted extensively with Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood about the television work, and understands Saturday afternoon boxing on network television will bring new fans to the sport.
“It’s a great opportunity and I intend to excel at it. They’re giving me the chance to be myself and I’m sure what they’re looking for I’ll produce,” Hunter told The Times in a telephone interview. “I love explaining boxing, from technical … to the whole circle of talent.
“It’s an audience that’s brand new with boxing coming back in the spotlight. There’s been a lack of recognition of the matchups, explaining what one is going to have to do to be successful. If you really know boxing, you should be able to make it interesting.”
Hunter led Ward to the ring against Bika in 2010, the Oakland fighter emerging with a convincing unanimous-decision victory.
Bika worked to ultimately gain the WBC super-middleweight belt in 2013, but lost it in August in a unanimous-decision defeat at the hands of Anthony Dirrell in Carson.
Al Haymon, the powerful boxing manager who created Premier Boxing Champions, which has deals on NBC, Showtime, ABC/ESPN and Spike TV, as well, suggested Hunter as a possible analyst after the trainer shined in prior appearances on Showtime and HBO.
“It gives you a shot of confidence,” Hunter said. “I think they’re saying I know how to explain boxing, and make it interesting.”
Stevenson, 37, is making the fourth defense of the belt he won in 2013.
“Bika is wild and has shown he just keeps coming,” Stevenson said in a recent conference call. “Stuff like that, I love … because he’s large and keeps pressuring. If you make a mistake, then it will be a knockout very soon in the fight.”
Bika has never been knocked out.
“Very interesting fight,” Hunter said. “Bika is a unique challenge to prepare for. You have to be alert at all times. He throws punches you don’t expect, and when you’re not expecting it, it can cause damage.
“Definitely a clash of styles. I think it’ll be an interesting fight all the way until the end.”
Stevenson, with a victory, would further set the table for a unification showdown with Sergey Kovalev that is believed to be moving closer to reality.
As a trainer, Hunter said he was awaiting confirmed dates for both Ward, who recently signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, and welterweight Amir Khan, who dominated Devon Alexander in December.
Earlier this month, Hunter-trained welterweight Andre Berto won the main event of a PBC card at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, scoring a technical knockout of Josesito Lopez.