BISMARCK, N.D. — Light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill, inspired again by a mob of roaring North Dakota followers, won a lopsided decision over Tyrone Frazier Saturday, then turned cheerleader himself.
As a capacity crowd of 8,300 in the Bismarck Civic Center chanted, "Vir-gil! Vir-gil!" after the decision was announced, Hill turned to his fans and asked them to change it to "Tom-mee! Tom-mee!"
He wanted a chant for Thomas Hearns, the opponent Hill hopes to fight next for his first seven-digit paycheck. Hill gave up trying to be heard over the deafening noise, however, when it became plain that only "Vir-gil!" chants were permitted.
Hill earned $300,000 for this bout against a moderately skilled fighter who was in superb condition. It's in Frazier's genes. His uncle and trainer is former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who, in the corner between rounds, almost gave his nephew more punishment than did Hill.
Then there was the crowd, which in these parts is part of the show. At a Hill fight in Bismarck, the standing ovation begins before the boxer leaves his dressing room.
But Frazier said none of it affected him. "The crowd didn't bother me. It hyped me up as much as Virgil," he said. "I didn't have to fight the crowd, I just had to fight Virgil . . . and Smoke (Smokin' Joe Frazier)."
Hill, who grew up in Grand Forks and Williston, N.D., stepped up in stature a bit. With the ninth defense of his World Boxing Assn. championship--the eighth in Bismarck--he tied Archie Moore for third place on the all-time roster of most successful defenses of a light-heavyweight title. Ahead of him are Bob Foster, with 14, and Michael Spinks and Victor Galindez, with 10 each.
Hill has one of boxing's most effective left jabs, and he used it to achieve nearly complete mastery of a shorter opponent. All three judges scored all 12 rounds for Hill, 120-108.
Hill began the fight with a dozen unanswered jabs, and while he seemed to tire in the late rounds, he used the jab to launch a flurry of 27 consecutive blows in the 12th round, when Frazier suddenly seemed exhausted.
There were no knockdowns, although Frazier went down from a right hand at the final bell.
Bob Arum, Hill's promoter, wants to package Hearns vs. Hill with another attractive main event on a Las Vegas pay-per-view show next fall. The indications are that Hearns' handlers are ready to talk. Manny Steward, Hearns' manager, called Hill's manager, Gary Martinson, Friday night and asked to meet with him.
Hill, who improved to 28-0, nearly put Frazier away in the second round when he snapped his head back with a right uppercut. Frazier (17-2-3) shook it off, but by then the contest's pattern was established--Hill was pounding Frazier mercilessly with the long, quick jab, and the Philadelphia fighter could do nothing about it.
Hill's jab is textbook-perfect. When he lets it go, the trigger is pulled a split-second after he begins to lean--but only an inch or two--into the punch, off his trailing right foot.
At impact, it's not a bothersome jab, it comes bearing pain. It's more than enough to prevent an opponent's punch, and enough to throw him out of focus briefly, which sets him up for another jab, and another. . . .
"His jab is stronger than his right hand," Frazier said. "I couldn't counter(punch) him, because his jab was knocking me off balance. Sometimes I would be gasping for air . . . with his left jab in my mouth. I never saw a jab like that."
Hill himself is a counterpuncher, but by the third round he was confidently leading with the jab. By the fifth, the fight had settled into an almost dull, thumping rhythm, and the percussion instrument was Hill's jab.
In the seventh, Hill seemed to fade a bit, and because he hadn't really hurt Frazier since the second round, it seemed that the champion's physical condition might be a problem. At the weigh-in Friday afternoon, Hill hit 175 pounds on the nose, then promptly found a water fountain and drank for more than a minute.
Hill is 6-feet-1 and well-muscled, causing some observers to wonder how many more tough fights he has left at the 175 limit.
In the 10th round, Hill tried for the last time to take Frazier out with one punch. He caught him on the jaw with a long right hand, but Frazier only blinked, then missed a step.
Both fighters slipped at times on a new ring mat, made slick by sweat and water. Later, it was explained by Arum that someone forgot the rosin box.
Once again, Hill, who lives in Fountain Hills, Ariz., said all the right things.
"It was an honor and a privilege to come back home to North Dakota and put on a good show," he said.
And after slipping in a plug for an uncle, who's running for sheriff in Grand Forks, Hill started to answer a question on whether his left thumb bothered him in the fight. Hill broke the thumb during training in April, forcing a 10-week postponement of the bout.
But before he could answer, Frazier piped up: "No, it didn't--trust me on that."
Of a Hill left hook that hurt him in the second round, Frazier said: "I don't know where that hook came from. I never saw it. He hit me so hard, I started talking to myself. Then I saw three Virgil Hills, so I decided to go after the one in the middle."