ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Virgil Hill is 42, but he looked more like 22 Friday night as he outboxed Valery Brudov to win a vacant cruiserweight belt at the Tropicana Showroom.
Hill (50-5), who has won five world title belts between light heavyweight and cruiserweight, had been idle for 20 months since losing a close, but unanimous decision in a rematch with then-champ Jean-Marc Mormeck in South Africa in May of 2004.
After that loss, Hill announced his retirement, but had a change of heart that led him to face Brudov for the WBA's "regular" title. Undisputed champ O'Neil Bell is the WBA's "super" champion because he is a unified champion. The reality is that the designation gives the WBA another sanctioning fee in the same weight class.
Regardless, Hill said he felt like a world champion again after fighting in the 28th world title bout of his career and winning a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 118-110, as did ESPN.com at ringside.
"I waited two years for this," Hill said. "The WBA considers it a world title and so do I. It feels the same to me as my other titles."
Hill came out strong, not looking anything like his 42 years. He was bouncing and moving while pushing out a hard jab to Brudov's body and head.
Brudov (30-1), of Russia, is a mechanical fighter who bulled forward throughout the bout. He landed some solid right hands, even wobbling Hill in the fifth, but he couldn't put enough combinations together to do any serious damage.
But in the sixth, Brudov, 29, landed a solid right hand that opened a bad cut over Hill's left eye. It was clearly bothering Hill, who dabbed at it throughout the round. The ringside physician examined Hill after the sixth but let the fight continue.
"You think 'Oh my God.' He mashed me with a 1-2," Hill said of his thoughts after being cut. "He caught me solid and split me open."
Hill continued to box, seemingly frustrating Brudov in the seventh as he couldn't land his right hand cleanly.
"I'm disappointed. I couldn't catch him," Brudov said. "I was shocked he moved so well for a 42-year-old man. His experience showed."
With the bleeding from the cut under control, Hill continued to stick and move and pile up points against Brudov, whose streak of 11 consecutive knockouts came to an end.
Still, Hill was hard on himself.
"I was rusty. I did have a lot of ring rust," he said. "I thought I'd be better. You try to be a perfectionist. I had a lot of anxiety and I was nervous in there. You wouldn't think that after so many title fights, but I was."
Hill, who has lived in suburban Atlantic City for 15 years and had the crowd on his side, credited trainer and cutman Mike Hall for his excellent work in closing the cut.
"Mike Hall won this fight," Hill said.
Brudov, fighting outside of Russia or France for the first time, had never faced a name opponent until Hill.
And what a name he is. Hill, who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics, won a light heavyweight title in 1987 by knocking out Leslie Stewart down the Boardwalk at the Trump Plaza. Hill went on to make 20 defenses over two reigns (with a loss to Thomas Hearns disrupting the stretch) and unify titles in 1996. He was also a cruiserweight champ from 2000-2002.
"My dream fight was to come back to Atlantic City and win another title where I won my first world title," Hill said.
As Hill sat with his cut wide open and bruises on his face after the fight, he said he wasn't done boxing just yet.
"I want one more fight, a big fight," he said. "Win, lose or draw, then I retire."
Former lightweight world champ Stevie Johnston (38-3-1) pounded out a unanimous decision against Steve Quinonez (31-10-1) in the 12-round junior welterweight co-feature.
Although Johnston, a 33-year-old southpaw, was idle for nearly two years after being stopped in the 11th round of a lightweight elimination fight by Juan Lazcano in September 2003, the win was his third in a row since ending his layoff.
He quietly won a pair of comeback fights last year before stepping up to a TV co-feature against Quinonez.
Johnston was out of the ring in part because of a serious car accident, but he looked very much like the Johnston of old who reigned as champ from 1997-2000 until losing a razor-close decision to Jose Luis Castillo.
Johnston still has fast hands and a tight defense and peppered Quinonez from close range all night.
He dropped Quinonez in the first round, but it was more of a flash knockdown than a damaging one. But it set the tone for the fight.
He opened a cut in the corner of Quinonez's right eye in the seventh and cruised to the decision. Two judges scored it 116-111 and a third had it 118-109. ESPN.com at ringside also scored it 116-111 for Johnston.
Also on the card:
• Lightweight contender Nate Campbell knocked Francisco Olvera down with a left hook in the first round and methodically broke him down until Olvera's corner stopped the fight after the sixth round.
Campbell (28-4-1, 24 KOs) was simply stronger than the game Olvera (14-3), who took a beating, especially in the sixth round, when Campbell hit him nearly at will with both hands.
Eventually, Olvera, 23, suffered a cut over his right eye and had a point deducted -- as if it mattered -- for excessive holding in the sixth.
Campbell, 33, was fighting for the first time since rejuvenating his career in October, when he pulled an upset by knocking out rising contender Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov on the Antonio Tarver-Roy Jones III pay-per-view undercard.
• Hot junior welterweight prospect Mike Arnaoutis (16-0-2, 8 KOs) scored three knockdowns en route to an impressive first-round knockout of Marc Thompson (13-1) of Topeka, Kan.
Arnaoutis, a 26-year-old southpaw from Greece who lives in the Atlantic City area, knocked Thompson down twice with left hands in the opening two minutes of the fight.
Moments later, it was a right hook to the body that floored Thompson, 28, for the third time. Although he rose quickly, Thompson was doubled over with his hands on his knees with no intention of fighting on, and referee Benji Esteves stopped the fight.