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Maurice Hooker takes lessons from Crawford camp to the ring

05
Aug

Maurice Hooker small

Photo: BoxRec

Maurice Hooker admits that he knows almost nothing about his next opponent, Ty Barnett, whom he’ll face in a 10-round junior welterweight fight on Saturday at the home of the Golden State Warriors, the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Outside of a few YouTube videos, Barnett’s is just the name on his fight contract as he goes in search of his 21st victory.

After spending four weeks in camp with the world’s best 140-pound fighter, Terence Crawford, it may not matter too much whom you face.

Hooker (20-0-2, 15 knockouts) is coming off a month of work at the Triple Threat Gym in Colorado Springs as the primary sparring partner for Crawford as he prepared to defeat Viktor Postol in a RING/WBO/WBC title unification bout on July 23 in Las Vegas. Crawford dominated Postol, dropping him twice before winning a unanimous decision. Hooker, 26, says he saw the fight and considered his own work with Crawford and felt good about his position in the division.

“I left confident, then I saw what he did to Postol and I think I can beat Postol,” said Hooker, a native of Dallas, Texas. “I got a lot of confidence from that camp.”

Crawford’s trainer, Vince Parra, says this was the fifth time Hooker has served as a sparring partner for a world champion, but says Hooker is no sparring partner.

“Guys can be caught being sparring partners and that’s never been our approach. We’ve always finished on top. We weren’t there as sparring partners; we were there to make our own name,” Parra says.

“Every camp we’ve ever went into, we’ve never been anybody’s punching bag. I think any of the guys we’ve worked with can attest to that. Terence Crawford, we have the utmost respect for him but we never felt we were the one getting beat on.”

Aside from the strong work in the ring, Hooker also got advice from Crawford to help him improve.

“He told me to just stay patient and keep working my jab. Let my opponent run into my punches instead of me trying to look for the knockout,” says Hooker, who is rated No. 12 by the IBF and 9 by the WBO.

Hooker’s next fight, against Barnett (23-4-1, 15 KOs), will be the co-main event to the Andre Ward vs. Alexander Brand fight, but won’t be televised by HBO like the main event. Parra says the fight will be a part of the BoxNation telecast in the United Kingdom, however.

Barnett, 33, of Washington, D.C., started his career at 16-0-1 but has since been derailed as his competition rose, losing 4 times by knockout. Barnett has fought just once since his 2014 knockout loss to Cosme Rivera, stopping Daniel Attah in 8 rounds this past February.

Hooker, who like Ward is signed with promotional organization Roc Nation, stopped Wilfrido Buelvas in the first round in March and feels he’s ready for a step-up later this year or next year.

Parra feels time is on Hooker’s side but wouldn’t mind a shot at the division’s WBA 140-pound titleholder, Ricky Burns.

“Moving forward, outside of Terence Crawford, there’s really nobody at 140 pounds that we wouldn’t entertain fighting. We look at guys like Ricky Burns, some of these other champions. (Hooker)’s gotta handle business on Saturday and we’re hoping it’ll lead to something bigger.”

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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