Boxing: Hide looks forward to rich future: Bentt advised to retire

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AS doctors advised Michael Bentt to retire from professional boxing yesterday, Herbie Hide, the man who took his world heavyweight title, was contemplating a lucrative future.

Bentt was beaten up by 22- year-old Hide at Millwall football ground, London, on Saturday night, the fight ending when Bentt was unable to beat the count in the seventh round. It was billed as a match- up between two Britons though the London-born Bentt has lived most of his life in America while Hide, who was brought up in Norwich, was born in Nigeria.

Bentt, 30, was rushed to hospital after collapsing in his dressing-room and was told yesterday that the concussion he suffered was so severe that he should never box again. John Sutcliffe, the consultant neurosurgeon who examined him said that he was 'comfortable and stable' but that he could remember nothing of the fight. Sutcliffe said there was no need for an operation but that Bentt should retire.

'Really it's a reflection of cumulative injury from the past,' Sutcliffe said. 'I think he is now suffering the effects of more than one injury over the past few months or possibly years. I think it would be unwise for him to box any more.

'The worry is that the cumulative effects such as they are at present are likely to be worse. I think if he continues to have similar effects, and indeed they get worse as time passes, then it's likely that he will end up with significant injuries to the brain which will be irreversible.'

Stan Hoffman, Bentt's manager, said he would instruct Bentt to retire. 'He's a warrior. The first thing he's going to say is, 'I feel fine, get me another fight.' But I'm absolutely going to do everything in my power to convince him that he's never going to fight again.'

Hide may only have acquired a tin-pot crown in the WBO heavyweight title but both the fighter and his promoter, Barry Hearn, have struck gold in doing so. Hide's name will now enter the equation whenever million-dollar heavyweight match-ups are talked about by boxing's Las Vegas high-rollers.

One match-up Hide is not seeking is with another British heavyweight, Frank Bruno, who has failed with three attempts to win the world title, the last being against Lennox Lewis last October.

Bruno, who continued his latest comeback with a much- criticised first-round knockout of the American journeyman Jesse Ferguson last week, might see Hide as his easiest route to the world title, but such a match-up seemed to be ruled out by Bob Arum, Hearn's American co-promoter of Saturday's bout.

The Hide-Bentt fight was watched by millions on American television and Arum said: 'Bruno is a lovely guy but in America he is considered a joke.'

Arum, said of Hide: 'This kid can fight. He may be the fastest guy out there. Size-wise he is not in the tradition of the big modern heavyweights but then neither was Evander Holyfield. It is not far-fetched to say that Hide and Holyfield will fight to unify the heavyweight title in Vegas in November. I would not vote for a Bruno fight, if the goal is an eventual unification with Holyfield.'

Hide, who before Saturday was unknown outside boxing circles, and unrated by many within them, would relish that idea. 'I won't be partying,' he said. 'When I start celebrating is when I beat Holyfield and become undisputed champion.'

However, a tell-tale flutter of circumspection in Hearn's otherwise joyous eyes suggested that it will be some time before Hide is risked against the likes of Holyfield, Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis, who might themselves relish swatting the relatively diminutive Hide before he has time to grow bigger in either stature and accomplishment.

More likely is that Hearn will apply to Hide's medium-term future the same formula that made his middleweight signing Chris Eubank, a millionaire without taking on the world's best until the pot had become sufficiently tantalising to make the risk worthwhile. Having done the hard work in beating Bentt, some tender items may be on the menu as Hide tucks in to what is euphemistically known as 'the learning process'.

Among the first up could be Tommy 'The Duke' Morrison, whose connections, including Arum, are anxious to propel into one last payday before the china-chinned Kansas cowboy is laid to rest in the graveyard of white hopes.

Fight report, page 30