Boxing: Bentt hits town for his roots shuffle: Millwall stages homecoming for 'British' WBO heavyweight champion. Henry Winter reports

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The Independent Online
LONDON'S recent reputation as a creche for future heavyweight champions was reinforced yesterday with the well-staged homecoming of another transatlantic success story, this time Michael Bentt doing the 'back to my roots' shuffle at Millwall FC. A Cockney Classic between Bentt and West Ham's Lennox Lewis is increasingly likely. It will be Chas v Dave next.

Bentt's unexpected 93-second humiliation of Tommy Morrison for the WBO title on 29 October has tossed another confusing ingredient into the alphabet soup of the heavyweight world. The engaging Bentt, born 28 years ago in Dulwich before leaving aged six for Jamaica and then New York City, was in time-honoured 'I'll fight anyone, even Godzilla' mood at the New Den yesterday but lucre and logic point to Lewis, the WBC belt-carrier, in England some time next summer, with a possible preliminary against Herbie Hide, the WBO contender, on 19 March.

Other putative opponents include Frank Bruno and George Foreman, whom Bentt loathes following a stream of disparaging remarks by the Punching Pensioner. Bentt's manager, Stan Hoffman, a dead ringer for a Status Quo roadie but renowned as an astute operator, hopes to announce adversary and venue before they return to the United States early next week, but their hands are tied by Evander Holyfield. Until the WBA and IBF champion decides whether to pack up or lace up, the aspirations of Bentt and Lewis remain on hold.

While talks about talks continue, Bentt revels in the present. A noted amateur in the States with a record of 159-8, Bentt flopped in his first professional outing, fell out with his father and disappeared from the fight scene. After 18 months cleaning instruments in a Long Island hospital, he was coaxed back and eventually worked up to become Morrison's warm-up as America's Great White Hope limbered up for Lewis. Three knockdowns from boxing's latest convert to Islam and the mauled Morrison was history.

'My aim now is to unify the four titles,' Bentt said. 'I have the style to beat any boxer. I can outbox Evander. I can outsmart Riddick Bowe. I can outsmart and outpunch Lennox.' Ambitious words.

Bentt, whose idol is Muhammad Ali, dismisses his compatriot's potencies. 'Lewis is determined but very limited. Bruno is very basic; he has a lot of guts and is a chiselled guy but I've never heard of a Mr Universe winning the world championship. Bruno and Hide on the same night couldn't beat me.'

Bentt's Britishness was debated in depth. He flew in on a US passport, but emphasises the bulldog nature of his dual citizenship: 'I fought for Britain as an amateur in 1985 and feel as British as Bruno, Lewis, Thatcher or John Major.'

Apart from visiting relatives in Herne Hill, Bentt has one other plan for this trip. 'I've heard great stories about this Millwall guy, Pat Van den Hauwe. He sounds a real character. Tell him I'd like to meet him.' But not in the ring.

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