ND's Virgil Hill elected to International Boxing Hall of Fame
FARGO -- Virgil Hill was in California helping his son, Virgil Hill Jr., rehabilitate a knee injury when they found out the latter will move up to the St. Louis Cardinals Class AAA affiliate next season. It wasn't much longer when the father also got a piece of good news.
He was elected on the first ballot to the International Boxing Hall of Fame and will be inducted next summer. Ceremonies will take place at the Hall of Fame venue in Canastota, N.Y.
"It was a good celebration for us," said the 48-year-old Hill.
He made it in his first year of eligibility in a vote of the Boxing Writers Association and a national panel of experts. To be considered, a fighter has to have not fought in five years.
Also being inducted are junior lightweight champion Arturo Gatti, two-time flyweight champion Myung-Woo Yuh, referee Mills Lane, announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. and journalist Colin Hart.
"We've had this goal for a long, long time," said Bill Sorensen, Hill's manager for most of his career. "I've never known anyone, never heard of anyone, who puts in the time and effort that Virgil did. He's had 20 world title defenses and nobody deserves it more than Virgil."
Hill said he was surprised when he found out he made it, saying it the political nature of boxing makes honors like this unpredictable. Plus he hails from a state, North Dakota, that isn't high on the boxing radar.
"For many years I got a black eye because I fought in North Dakota but I couldn't think of a better venue that was so supportive," Hill said.
As an amateur, he was an Olympic Silver medalist in the 1984 Games. Hill captured five world titles with the most prominent the World Boxing Association light heavyweight belt. He won a title in three different decades. His record is 50-7 -- and he says he may not be done yet.
Back in training shape, he says the next goal is to beat Bernard Hopkins' feat of being the oldest world champion. Fighting again would not endanger his Hall of Fame status, Sorensen said.
"I'm going to do it again," Hill said.
With his upcoming induction, Hill is a rare Hall of Fame professional athlete from North Dakota. Williston native Phil Jackson was inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
His team, which mainly consisted of Sorensen and assistant trainer Al Larsien, are native North Dakotans. Hill said the Hall of Fame was never a goal of his, but it was for his father Robert Hill, who died last year.
"When I was younger, he would tell me I needed to make my mark in history," Hill said. "Just before I fought for the gold medal, he said give it your best and nobody remembers second place. I was so mad at him, I didn't understand what he was saying until later.
"He was right, they don't remember second place. He was saying give it your all and leave it all there."