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For Hill, now's the time

Three years ago, Virgil Hill found himself in a preliminary role to Thomas Hearns even though he was defending a world title. Monday night at Caesars Palace, Hill defended his World Boxing Association light-heavyweight championship against Hearns. Before the fight, Hill said "I almost feel like the opponent."

Could Hearns become a champion a sixth time? Was he finished as a top fighter at 32?

Hearns, Hearns and more Hearns.

On June 6, 1988, Hearns battered and cut up Iran Barkley for two rounds of his World Boxing Council middleweight title defense. In the third round, Barkley knocked out Hearns.

Hill retained his WBA light-heavyweight title earlier on that card, but his decision over Ramzi Hassan in a dull 12-round fight did little to enhance his national reputation.

After the Barkley fight, Hearns went on to more big-name bouts _ James Kichen, Sugar Ray Leonard and Michael Olajide.

After the Hassan fight, Hill returned to North Dakota, where he grew up. His next eight fights, seven of them title defenses, were in Bismarck, N.D.

Now the unbeaten Hill is back in Las Vegas, seeking the marquee value needed to guarantee big-money purses. His purse Monday night was $1.5-million, five times bigger than his previous biggest payday.

Hearns, a fighter who will always be tied to Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, was getting $4.25-million.

"I didn't look good," Hill said, recalling his fight against Hassan. "But he fought to last. He didn't fight to win."

The Hit Man has always fought to win.

Ruddock-Tyson available

locally on pay-per-view

Vision Cable will carry the on-again, off-again rematch between Mike Tyson and Razor Ruddock on June 28.

The bout, which will be held at the Mirage in Las Vagas, will be carried locally by the Viewer's Choice (Channel 14) pay-per-view network. The fight will cost $34.95, $39.95 the day of the event. Consult your local cable system for availability.

_ Times staff writer Tony Green contributed to this report.