Virgil Hunter tapped to guide Khan comeback

It appears Oakland’s own Virgil Hunter has added a new name to his growing stable of fighters: Amir “King” Khan.

Khan, a former two-time junior welterweight champion, announced Saturday that he has hired Hunter as his new trainer for his comeback fight this December against 26-year-old Carlos Molina.

The 25-year-old Pakistani fighter — born in Bolton, England — told ESPN’s Dan Rafael he was pleased to work with Hunter and that under his tutelage, he can reclaim his spot at the top of the junior welterweight division:

“Everyone in boxing knows about his skills and the success he has enjoyed over the last few years. I’m looking forward to the start of my training camp and working on some new things with him.”

Hunter is best known for his work with universally-recognized super middleweight champion Andre Ward. He said he is looking forward to training Khan, who he recognized for his speed and heart:

“There are certain small aspects of his game that I’m intending to work on in order to help him fulfill his enormous potential.”

Hunter, the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2011 trainer of the year, also trains local fighters Mike Dallas Jr. of Bakersfield, Brandon Gonzales of Sacramento and San Francisco’s Karim Mayfield.

Mayfield is in training camp preparing for his HBO debut on Oct. 27 against Mauricio Herrera.

Khan (26-3, 18 KO) is coming off a devastating fourth-round knockout loss to current WBC champion Danny Garcia in Las Vegas in July. For that fight – as well as the past four years – Khan was trained by five-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach.

Khan fired Roach as his trainer almost three weeks ago and met with Hunter while interviewing potential candidates in New York.

Khan’s only other knockout loss was served up in the first round by Colombian power puncher Breidis Prescott. Khan hired Roach after the loss in September 2008 to help revitalize his career.

Under Roach’s tutelage, Khan won eight consecutive fights, including a unanimous decision over Andriy Kotelnyk to claim the WBA junior welterweight title. His last victory was a July 2011 fifth-round knockout of Zab Judah, from whom he annexed the IBF title.

Khan lost both titles via controversial split decision to Lamont Peterson in Peterson’s hometown of Washington, D.C. in December.

Despite his accomplishments, Khan has been criticized for his inability to take a good punch.

Hunter said he believes Khan takes a pretty good punch, but it’s the decisions he makes afterwards that cost him and cause fans and critics to immediately place labels on a fighter:

“People don’t realize that Ezzard Charles was knocked out seven times. Joe Louis was knocked out. It goes on and on. It’s not a pre-requisite to say that his career is doomed.”

Though Molina (18-0-1, 7 KO) is the smaller man – and a light puncher – Khan said he recognizes Molina’s natural speed, which makes him a dangerous opponent:

“I always want to face hungry young fighters and in Molina I’m up against a guy who has ambitions of world title success.”

Hunter said that no matter how the situation looks, he believes Khan can successfully rebound and eliminate any doubt about his future in boxing:

“… from the offensive side, Amir Khan is going to be a threat to anybody he’s in the ring with, trust me.”