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Upside Down Under

Where is Virgil Hill today…..Through the late 1980s and well into the ‘90s, Virgil Hill, a professional boxer who grew up in Grand Forks, brought a lot of fame and fortune to North Dakota.

By Marvin Baker

If you don’t know, Hill won the silver medal in boxing in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, he turned professional and changed the whole dynamic of boxing in North Dakota.

Every time he entered the ring, no matter where he was fighting, he carried a North Dakota flag into the ring with him. That lit up boxing fans all over the world.

Virgil went on to have an incredibly successful career, winning 51 of his fights and losing only seven.

But that’s not all the accolades he brought upon himself and the state of North Dakota.

He’s been named to the Boxing Hall of Fame, won championships in the light heavyweight division and cruiserweight division, and he unified the World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation championships with a win over Henry Maske in Munich in 1996.

Virgil Hill was also a great ambassador for the state outside the ring. No matter where he was, he was always putting North Dakota first in his pre-fight news conferences.

There is no doubt he is one of the best athletes to come out of this state. The Grand Forks Herald said he was always the first one at the ring and the last one to leave.

He worked hard, had a great work ethic, was very focused on his job and loved winning.

But he also surrounded himself with others who were highly professional. When he started his professional career, Bismarck’s Mayor Marlan Haakenson was his manager. When Haakenson retired, his successor Bill Sorenson became Hill’s manager.

In addition, he had some of the best coaches in the business. Diddy Quisnell of Grand Forks was his mentor while he was a student at Grand Forks Red River High School. When he turned pro, he eventually found Freddie Roach, a normally quiet red head who was always analyzing Virgil’s opponents, trying hard to find that edge even against boxers who were considered better than he was.

In 1989, Virgil announced he was fighting Bobby Czyz in the Bismarck Civic Center. When that day arrived, the civic center was filled to its 9,000 seat capacity. The fight was televised live and some of the best undercards were brought to Bismarck.

The atmosphere was electric, and if you were in that arena that day, you would have sworn the roof was going to get blown off that building.

The fight also brought major news media to Bismarck, many who hadn’t been in North Dakota prior or even knew where it was.

Some of the media included the Boston Globe, TSN, ABC News, the BBC, the Dallas Morning News and Deutsche TV.

But that was sort of typical of the crowds Virgil would draw to his venues.

And because he won fights, he earned lots of money. But that didn’t change the “Grand Forks teenager.” He remained like everyone else in North Dakota: honest, down to earth and easy to talk to about boxing or your hometown.

Virgil retired in 2015. So what do you think he’s been doing since then? He promotes boxing and promotes the next generation of boxers to be winners in the sport.

He lives in Los Angeles and has an organization called Quicksilver Hill Sports & Entertainment. Without going into great detail, he promotes boxing.

In fact, several months ago he was at the Delta Hotel in downtown Fargo promoting a bout that was coming up in Fargo. In June, he attended the Medora Musical and chatted with a number of people during the intermission.

When we think of professional athletes from North Dakota, Roger Maris comes to mind first, which is a given. He was a great baseball player, and it’s been more than 50 years since he played, but he’ll always be the best.

Sports Illustrated named Virgil Hill the 10th best athlete in North Dakota.

There are a lot of people who would beg to differ. If you’ve seen any of his fights, you would have realized quickly where the Quicksilver nickname came from. He had a left jab that put down a lot of boxers.

He still uses that jab, but because he is aging like the rest of us, he’s not as fast as he once was.

Virgil is still good at what he does. He coaches, he trains, he works with young boxers and he’s gotten a lot of kids out of the ghetto to pursue their dream just like he did in Grand Forks.



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