Virgil Hill training fightersBISMARCK — It's been nearly two years since Virgil Hill last fought, and he still wants one more send-off bout in North Dakota. But in the meantime, he's found a way to stay in the game.
By: LOU BABIARZ, AP Member Exchange Feature from The Bismarck Tribune
BISMARCK — It's been nearly two years since Virgil Hill last fought, and he still wants one more send-off bout in North Dakota. But in the meantime, he's found a way to stay in the game.
Through his gym in New Jersey, former world light heavyweight and cruiserweight champ is now training fighters.
"Training really helps take the place of being in the ring," Hill said. "You still get to compete even though it's in a completely different way. Even though I'm not in there myself, I get to help them prepare."
The 45-year-old Hill admits he has a different attitude toward preparation when he's in the role of mentor than he does when he's fighting.
"I'm a very strict trainer, which is funny, because sometimes I would be a little lax in training," Hill said.
Hill said he doesn't take the lead trainer's role. Instead he defers to Mike Hall and Al Larsien, his longtime cornermen, to run the show.
"I don't take the middle," he said. "I carry the spit bucket and stay on the sides. I still have to learn."
Hill is not just working with boxers. He is helping to train mixed martial artists, where his background in youth wrestling is a plus.
"I follow (MMA) about as much as I follow boxing, not a lot. But when the big fights come on, I think it's great," Hill said.
Hill said he gets to work with a wide variety of people at the gym, from young children through adults, helping them with general conditioning.
"We're working with the local baseball and basketball teams on conditioning," Hill said. "... It really doesn't matter what the sport is. We focus on core strength."
Hill also has had the chance to watch the athletic careers of his children unfold, which this year has included some dramatic ups and downs.
Virgil Hill Jr. was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth round of this year's draft, and just finished his first year of rookie ball. An outfielder, the younger Hill hit .216 with one homer, 22 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 188 at bats with Gulf Coast League Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., a rookie league team.
"He loved it," Hill said. "They're very happy with him and his work ethic."
Another of Hill's sons, Zakary, has been a star running back for Shadow Ridge High School in Nevada. Zakary ran for 1,196 yards last season and was off to another strong start this year before suffering a severe neck injury last month.
"Zakary broke his neck, but he's doing much better now," Virgil Hill said. "He's out of the halo."
The injury occurred on a kickoff return. Zakary wanted to return to the game, but his mother insisted he go to the hospital. Considering the injury could have led to paralysis or even been life-threatening, Hill is grateful she did.
"That's why I believe in mother's intuition," Hill said. "If one thing had been different, who knows?
"If there was ever a question if there wasn't a God, this proved to me that there are miracles."
Though Hill hasn't fought since losing to Firat Arslan in November 2007, he said he'd like to fight at least one more time in the state where he made his name. He said the details still have to be worked out.
"I've always considered all of North Dakota my home, not just one particular place," he added. "... I would like to have one more send-off fight there."