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The goal for Fargo youth boxer is to be the next Virgil Hill

Daniel Dralu eyes a punching bag at Toros Boxing Club in Hillsboro, N.D. Jeff Kolpack / Forum News Service1 / 3
Daniel Dralu works on a punching bag at Toros Boxing Club in Hillsboro, N.D. Jeff Kolpack / Forum News Service2 / 3
Daniel Dralu from Fargo shows three boxing belts he's won in the last year. Jeff Kolpack / Forum News Service3 / 3

HILLSBORO, N.D. — The boxing gym is an old tire shop, with one garage door in front and another one in the rear where cars could enter and leave to get new treads. A large American flag hangs on one wall, below it several boxing photos including former world champion Virgil Hill.

It has one of the few full-sized boxing rings in the region. If there are any modern amenities in the facility, they would be hard to find. The floor is concrete. It's old school, and that's the way Danny Pruneda likes it. He's the owner/operator of Toros Boxing Club at 121 North Main Street in Hillsboro.

"It's perfect," Pruneda said.

The previous owner sold the building to the club, liking the idea it was a non-profit group that would benefit kids. And they come from all over, with boxers making the trip from the likes of Fargo, Dilworth and Finley, N.D.

One 17-year-old in particular makes the trip from Fargo with a work ethic that is at the next level, whatever that may be. During football season at Fargo South, Daniel Dralu said there were times when he would practice with the Bruins until around 6 p.m., get to the locker room as quickly as possible and hop in his car for the approximate 30-minute drive to Hillsboro.

Then it was on with the boxing gear for drills with punching bags and whatever else boxers work on. That lasted until around 9 p.m., at which time he would get back in a car for the trip back to Fargo.

"I'd get up and go to school the next day but it's all worth it," Dralu said. "I don't really get that tired."

It's all worth it because he's making a fast track in the sport of boxing. The goal is to be an Olympic Games medalist and he has a certain quiet confidence that makes you believe him. Certainly, there won't be a lack of effort.

During football, the focus, especially as the week moves along, is with the Bruins. He more than makes up for it on the weekend, however, sometimes putting in double digit hours all the while helping out Pruneda, a truck driver.

"He helps me work on heavy equipment and between that and boxing, he'll be here eight to 10 hours," Pruneda said. "He's awesome. A very humble kid. Very smart kid. He's a great person to have around."

Dralu hasn't been at it very long, either, with the first steps in boxing coming in the summer after his freshman year at South. By February of 2016, on his birthday, he was in the ring for his first match.

"I wanted a belt so bad, but you know, I lost the first day and came back home and from there just started training harder," Dralu said.

That's when Pruneda entered the picture. He's the president for USA Boxing in North Dakota.

"From there we took it to the next level," Dralu said.

He entered the Western Elite Qualifier at the 152-pound youth male division last March in Albuquerque, N.M. That was followed by a tournament in Duluth, Minn., at the Jack O'Brien Boxing Invitational, where he got his first belt. He got two more belts last week in the King of the Jungle National Championships in Aurora, Ill., located near Chicago. He won his event and received the best boxer award.

"I can tell you, he's the next Virgil Hill," Pruneda said.

Those are rather strong words, considering Hill, the North Dakota boxer, was an Olympic silver medalist, won world titles in three light heavyweight and two cruiserweight divisions, successfully defended title belts 20 times and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

"The 2024 Olympics, that's what I'm shooting for," Dralu said. "Hopefully by then I'll have learned all the techniques of fighting."

He's right-handed in everything he does, except boxing where he learned to be a lefty. It makes both hands pretty potent, he said.

"He's a natural, he learns everything real easy," Pruneda said. "He's got boxing techniques, all these moves, all these combinations that have been around for 100 years. He's learned them in a short period of time and he's shown he can do it."

Meanwhile, football practice begins in August and Dralu will be gunning to be the starting safety. South head coach Tyler Kosel said he likes his players being two-sport athletes, although it's not often that includes boxing.

"He's probably boxing first and football second but we've had the discussion that he'll be dedicated to us during the fall," Kosel said. "He's a hard hitter on the football field, a physical kid."

Dralu says both sports are aggressive with the one difference being football has breaks between plays where boxing is non-stop during a period.

"Whoever stops is going to get pounded," he said.

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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