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Boxing: Hide hands out hiding

That Herbie Hide defeated Tony Tucker to become the new World Boxing Organisation heavyweight champion here last night seemed of little consequence. Some five hours later, in Las Vegas, the opening bell would sound for the richest fight in history - the rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield for the World Boxing Association title.

Hide laid spurious claim to world supremacy at the Norwich Sports Village, a typical British leisure facility and a far cry from the setting of the WBA fight; the MGM Grand, the world's largest hotel-casino-theme park.

However, a second-round victory over a fighter with Tucker's reputation for durability should not be dismissed out of hand. Tucker had been stopped only once previously in his long career, and never had he been handled with ease that Hide displayed.

The fight was stopped after 2min 45sec of round two when referee Raul Caiz implemented the three-knockdown rule. Tucker had become a sitting target within six minutes of the fight starting as Hide looked close to the form that made him one of the world's most promising young fighters before his career was shockingly derailed.

It was a heartening victory for Hide who had won this title previously in March 1994, but whose one-year reign ended at the hands of Riddick Bowe when he was hammered to defeat in six humiliating rounds. The traumatic nature of that loss, the first of Hide's career, left his future in doubt for there were fears that a fighter perceived to be psychologically fragile might not be able to recover. Hide regrouped away from boxing for 18 months before returning with a series of routine wins.

This was to be the first test of his comeback. Tucker's best days were behind him, but his experience and sheer size - 6ft 5in and 17st 8lb - made him a dangerous opponent for Hide, who was almost two stone lighter.

Tucker's preparation appeared thorough and his conditioning was as good as might reasonably be expected of a 38-year-old former cocaine addict in his 61st professional fight. He just could not cope with Hide, who will now want a shot at the winner of the WBA title fight. With all four of last night's championship contestants under promotional contract to the Frank Warren-Don King partnership, this eventuality is a likelihood rather than a possibility.

But such a showdown will hardly be made by public demand. The world will have discovered who "The Man" really is within six hours of the final bell here.

Much of the credit for 5,600-seat arena being full must go to the local favourite Jon Thaxton, who successfully defended his WBO and IBF Intercontinental light-welter championship. Thaxton knocked out Gagik Kachatrian, an Armenian fighting out of Germany, with a devastating left hook after 41 seconds of round two.