Boxing: Hide's world hopes recede

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The Independent Online
THE unlikely prospect of Herbie Hide, Britain's new heavyweight champion who is just out of the apprentice stage, being thrown in against the world champion, Riddick Bowe, in the summer, seems to be receding after Hide's title-winning effort in Dagenham on Saturday when he beat Michael Murray in five messy, if one-sided, rounds.

Hide's promoter, Barry Hearn, said: 'As Herbie's manager I have to look at a fight with Bowe. But we'll just keep going with other fights and see what happens.' For a drumbeater like Hearn to employ such subdued rhythms is rare.

It seemed to suggest that while Hearn is constrained by the complicated responsibilities of promoter-managerhood to service the expectations of, variously, the public, television executives, future deals with the Bowe camp, and Hide's pride, he is aware that on Saturday's showing Hide is a long way from being ready for such elevated challenges as Bowe offers.

On television Bowe, while amicably offering the thought that he would knock Hide out in a round on Saturday's form, was polite about Hide's prospects in general. Backstage, as he met the milling crowd of undercard boxers and trainers, he ventured the cruel opinion that Hide would not beat any of America's top five amateurs.

Hearn's guarded statement also appears to acknowledge that while, as he says, he is obliged as Hide's manager to explore all offers, he is in any case not quite convinced that the machinations of Bowe's manager Rock Newman in publicising Hide's claims are sincere.

The suspicion lingers that the adept Newman may be using Hide either to press Lennox Lewis, Britain's holder of the rival World Boxing Council heavyweight title (who is sensitive to barbs that he will not face Bowe), into a unification match at a knockdown price, or to create a smokescreen behind which Bowe can, for the time-being, avoid Lewis, whom many think would beat him.

If so, it is unfortunate for Hide, whose inexperience does not disguise the fact that he has fast hands and considerable natural ability. Had it not been for the ballyhoo of a mooted match with Bowe, we might now be welcoming a young, exciting British champion without burdening him with immediate and unfavourable comparisions with the champions of the world.

It remains to be seen whether Hide, who at present is too small at 141 2 stone, will grow into a true world heavyweight threat in size and tactical wiles. The possibility that he might makes it especially unnecessary for Hide to be sacrificed now before the - to promoters - voluptuous altar of the Lewis-Bowe fight, even if Rock Newman might welcome Hide as an inexpensive appetiser.

The best fight of the night on Saturday saw Sean Murphy, of St Albans, become British featherweight champion for the second time by beating Paddington's Alan McKay after nine torrid rounds.

It was furious action all the way, with suspense tempered by alarm at both fighters' porous defences. In the dressing-room Murphy's father told his battered son: 'I'm proud of you.' A house second nearby interjected: 'You mean, you weren't before?'