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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 28 2013

Ring feels right to Virgil Hill Jr.

Fargo - There is one more Virgil Hill boxing match in North Dakota after all. It’s just not the out-of-retirement bout that was talked about at one time.

The torch is being passed on Friday at 4Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town, where Virgil Hill Jr., 23, will face Brent Moorehead in a World Boxing Federation welterweight fight. What makes it all the more intriguing is the path Hill Jr. took in getting into boxing.

At this time last year, he was hitting – a baseball with his bat. But apparently, not well enough to suit the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He was released after batting .204 for the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits.

“But you know what,” Hill Jr. said earlier this week, “I’ve always wanted to box, even when I was younger. I was just never allowed to. Then I’ve gotten to an age that even if I was told no, I was still able to make the decision for myself.”

If Virgil Hill was once against it, he’s changed his mind. He’s been training his son and will be in the corner on Friday night.

In a switch from most parents-kids in an athletic setting, Hill said he has a sense of calm watching his son in the ring. That wasn’t the case with his nerves, he said, during his Hall of Fame boxing career that produced multiple world titles in multiple weight classes.

“I still think if he threw a baseball 100 mph he would be playing baseball,” Hill said of his son. “But he said, ‘Dad, I just don’t love it anymore,’ and I totally understood that.”

There is no shortage of athletic expertise in the Hill corner. Hill Jr.’s mother, former Olympic sprinter Denean Howard, has been orchestrating the cardiovascular segment of training. His sister is a licensed masseuse.

When he was winning world titles, Hill was no slouch in running workouts either, often winning fights in later rounds by being in better condition.

And, as Hill pointed out, it’s not as if his son is new to boxing. He was with his father at several title fights including ones in Germany and France.

“He’s been around boxing his whole life,” Hill said. “He did grow up with it. He just didn’t compete with it.”

In a sense, Hill Jr. is going from a sport in one minor league to a different sport in another minor league. It’s generally a long road for boxers to reach the spotlight stage of a title fight.

“I know it’s not going to be easy and it’s not something that’s going to come fast,” he said. “I believe in the process. The main thing is I love what I’m doing and I love who I’m working with. That makes it fun.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia