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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 12 2009

ND boxer Hill stays busy, but won't say he's done boxing

The mornings come early and the work day sometimes drags until 9 at night. This is not exactly the lifestyle of a professional boxer who may or may not be retired.

Virgil Hill is 45 years old now and making the transition to a post-championship career. Among other things, he opened a gym in Galloway, N.J., just outside of Atlantic City called All N Conditioning.

He’s one of his own students, too, and because he’s still in relatively good shape at 200 pounds, the possibility remains that Hill – a North Dakota boxer – is not fully retired from the game.

“I’m still hammering away,” he said. “I’m probably in better shape outside of getting ready for a fight than I have ever been because I’m so active in it. … I’m just weighing my options right now.”

There probably isn’t much to weigh. Hill admits the downturn in the economy directly affects boxing purses and put it this way: He’s not going into the ring without a significant payday.

His last fight was against Firat Arslan in Germany in November of 2007, which resulted in the third loss in his last four fights in a career that spawned a 50-7 record.

“If everything made sense, I would do it,” he said.

Not everybody shares that opinion. Bill Sorensen, Hill’s adviser and manager for many years, is done with boxing and he thinks Hill may be, too.

“He hasn’t officially announced his retirement,” Sorensen said. “He has talked about doing something. But, yes, as far as I’m concerned, he’s retired.”

Sorensen still lives in Bismarck. He’s negotiated several of Hill’s big money fights including deals with promoter Don King, a process he calls the low point of his life in boxing.

The Hill and King parties signed a five-fight, 20-month, $2 million contract in 1994 that yielded just one fight. It was during the peak of Hill’s career, one in which he dominated the light heavyweight division from 1987 to 1996 with the only blip a loss to Thomas Hearns in 1991.

Now a cruiserweight, Hill is nowhere to be found in the boxing rankings.

“I don’t think he has any illusions of trying to make another run,” said Al Larsien, Hill’s trainer/assistant trainer for most of his career. “I believe physically he probably still has the tools to be very, very competitive. But the pain he has to go through to get to that championship level and to fight guys 20 years younger, it’s just not worth it.”

Hill’s attention is all about the gym, now. The logo bears his name and the clients are a broad range of people from mixed martial arts fighters to boxers.

He’s more into the conditioning end of it, but he says his training style is a combination of almost every trainer he worked with like Eddie Futch, Freddie Roach, Mike Hall and Larsien.

“I do the conditioning stuff and most of my trainers never did that,” Hill said. “The only one who came close was Al.”

Like Hill, Larsien has dabbled into training mixed martial arts fighters. He worked with former Minnesota State Moorhead wrestler Chris Tuchscherer, who recently won a main event at Four Bears Casino in New Town, N.D., and has been working with Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title holder Brock Lesnar.

“I told him I don’t know how much I can help you, but I can teach you some of the fundamentals,” Larsien said. “If I could improve your jab 15 percent, that would be a big difference.”

Back when Hill was in his prime, mixed martial arts wasn’t on the radar. Now? Hill even flew to Greece to get certified in kettlebells, a training program used by mixed martial arts competitors.

Times have changed. But the satisfaction of training competitors has not.

“I love to train kids,” Hill said. “I love to do it. I send them back to their trainers and it keeps me active and keeps me involved.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia