The world class trainer hopes to steer long-time pupil Lamont Peterson back into the welterweight conversation, beginning Sunday night when Peterson faces Sergey Lipinets on FS1.
In today’s fight game, trainers rarely build a fighter from scratch and remain with them for their entire career. Most of the current boxers who have stayed the course with the same coach are father-son duos; boxers like Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Leo Santa Cruz.
Barry Hunter isn’t Lamont Peterson’s biological father, but blood couldn’t make them any closer.
Hunter has stood by Peterson ever since the latter was a hungry, skinny 10-year-old on the streets of Washington, DC.
“It never, ever, was just about boxing,” said Hunter. “It was always about life, love and family.”
Hunter and Peterson are currently winding down their latest training camp. This Sunday, March 24, Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) will face former IBF super lightweight champion Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10 KOs) on PBC on FS1 (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
Hunter first met Peterson when he was 10 years old, at a time when Lamont, now 35, and his younger brother, Anthony, were often homeless.
Twenty-five years and three world titles later, the two remain inseparable.
“I don't often think about it because it seems like just yesterday we started on this journey, but then I was shown a picture recently of Lamont when he started,” said Hunter. “He was 10-years-old, and you could see my head leaning into the corner to talk to him. It brought back so many memories.”
Perhaps the sweetest of them all occurred in 2011, when Peterson unified the WBA and IBF super lightweight world titles by upsetting Amir Khan.
In 2017, another good night occurred when Peterson won his third world title, this time at 147-pounds, smoothly outboxing David Avanesyan to win the WBA welterweight strap.
However, things didn’t go so well in their last fight. In January 2018, Peterson challenged the fearsome Errol Spence Jr. for Spence’s IBF welterweight crown.
After six rounds against the dreaded offensive output of Spence, Hunter chose to save his fighter from further punishment. Rather than send Peterson out for the seventh, he called the fight off.
“I had to stop that fight,” said Hunter. “It was crazy because that was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life and at the same time it was the easiest thing I ever had to do.”
As is the norm, Hunter was more concerned about Peterson the person than Peterson the fighter.
“When you love somebody, everything else is secondary,” said Hunter. “Once I made that call, I was able to sleep at night with ease.”
Compassion aside, Hunter wasn’t pleased with his fighter’s performance.
“ It never, ever, was just about boxing. It was always about life, love and family. ” World-class Trainer - Barry Hunter
“I’ll never take anything away from Errol Spence,” said Hunter. “But I would have loved to see Lamont be a better Lamont that night. I couldn’t understand why he was standing in front of Errol like that. During the fight, he said to me his legs were heavy. I told him to step around then, instead of bouncing around, but something was off that night.”
Peterson hasn’t fought in the 14 months since. Against Lipinets—a 29-year-old a former world champion in his prime—the 15-year veteran has a formidable task to overcome.
Hunter, however, believes the break is what Peterson needed. Whether he resembles the fighter who nearly defeated Danny Garcia in 2015, or the one who lost every round to Spence, remains to be seen.
“Lamont has a family now, and having a family is a beautiful thing, but I just wanted to make sure that Lamont the fighter was still in there and that he was able to separate the two,” said Hunter. “When you’re going to war, you can’t be thinking one way and then go in with somebody trying to do you physical harm. It’s two different ways of thinking.”
In preparation for Lipinets, Hunter had Peterson worked as the chief sparring partner for WBC World Welterweight Champion Shawn Porter (a fighter Hunter also helps train) prior to Porter’s title defense against Yordenis Ugas.
“Lamont worked with Shawn, and had the perfect sparring,” said Hunter. “We felt he could help Shawn a lot because his body make-up was similar to Ugas. Their sparring was outstanding. Let’s put it this way: It was cable-ready.”
“I’d like to see Lamont the boxer, the fighter, and the cerebral Lamont,” Hunter continued. “I want to see him bring all the styles he’s capable of on the 24th.”
As for Lipinets, Hunter doesn’t see him as being too much for his fighter to handle, despite the long layoff.
“He’s a good little fighter,” said Hunter. “Do I think he's a special fighter? No. I think he's a good fighter in a lot of areas, but I see us coming out on the winning side.”
In order to do so, Peterson must fight with the same energy, passion and drive he once did as a hungry young man who slept on park benches and doorways in D.C.
“If I know him like I know him, he still has something left in that tank of his,” said Hunter. “Hopefully after being off for so long that thirst to get back to that level is there for him. I think we will see it, but at the end of the day it’s up to Lamont.”
For a closer look at Peterson-Lipinets, check out our fight night page.