Boxing: Hide has ways of seeking limelight: Richard Edmondson on Britain's other heavyweight

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FOR a man of such reputed speed and timing, Herbie Hide made an unfortunate arrival to publicise his quest for the world heavyweight boxing title yesterday. He was 50 minutes late.

Hide, who last week appeared to leap-frog both Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno in the chase to fight the new heavyweight champion, Riddick Bowe, will have to show greater discipline if James Pritchard is not to puncture the dream at Alexandra Palace, London, on Saturday.

Hide's delay in traffic gave reporters a chance to thumb through the extravagant claims made for the 21-year-old in a brochure from his backers, Barry Hearn's Matchroom team.

There was trumpeting of the boxer's 'speed and skills', his 'tremendous potential' and even a comparison with Muhammad Ali. In a parochial touch, the Norwich man was said to be the hottest thing to come out of the city since Colman's Mustard and about to continue the success of East Anglia's footballing Canaries. Suggestions that Hide may suffer a fate that will soon befall other local birds, Bernard Matthews's turkeys, were avoided.

Hide's record is indeed flawless after 18 fights, all of which have finished inside the distance. His passport to world title fight legitimacy is the World Boxing Council International crown he won earlier this year, even though this title, which is open only to boxers outside the top rank, carries the authority of the captain of a canoe.

The boxer himself recalled the moment when he heard Rock Newman (Bowe's manager, who will watch Saturday's fight) had mentioned his name as a possible opponent. 'I go to bed at 9.30 every day so I didn't see it on the television,' he said. 'The next morning Barry told me about it and I was so pleased that I went for a run in the morning and couldn't stop because I was so excited.'

This story of coltish reaction, delivered with a slight stutter, followed an apology for late arrival, and put the boxer in a refreshingly naive light. But, as his name suggests, there was soon another character, one possessing monstrous bravado, emerging from Mr Hide.

'Watching guys like Bruno and Lewis I always knew I was as good as them and it was just a matter of time,' he said. 'I weigh nearly 15 stones, full of muscle and I'm as fast as lightning. I'm the fastest heavyweight the world has seen for a long time.'

For a man of such professed ability, Hide is an almost unrecognised figure in Britain. As he joined the crowd on the street for the obligatory squaring up photographs with his American opponent, dressed in a leather jacket, open shirt, jeans and slip-on shoes, he could have been one of the media's bag-carriers.

The man who may yet become Britain's first world heavyweight champion this century could not be named by members of the public walking past. One elderly man did think they had a familiar look. 'I don't know who these are,' he said. 'But they're acting like Laurel and Hardy.'

(Photograph omitted)