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Boxing: Klitschko hitch for Hide

THE CONSERVATISM which has blighted heavyweight boxing's higher echelons this year was not in evidence last night. With all but one of their combined 56 fights having ended by knockout, the World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title match between Herbie Hide and the 6ft 8in Ukrainian giant Vitali Klitschko was never likely to end in an uninspiring points decision, and neither did it - Hide was flattened in the second round.

Hide hung himself with his own words. Earlier in the week, the Norfolk- based champion had declared: "If I'm stupid enough to stand in front of a man that big and let him hit me, I deserve to lose". He did and he did - quickly. He was dropped twice by right hands in the second round and the fight was waved off after 1min 14sec of the round.

Timing has never been Hide's strong point and a terrific opportunity has ended disastrously. Indeed, it is hard to imagine he has any future left in the sport following this defeat, for which he only has himself to blame.

The distraught 27-year old left the Arena without attending the post- fight press conference but his bitterly disappointed promoter Frank Warren, said: "That was not the way to fight someone of Klitschko's size. Herbie just stood in front of him with his head held up. He was asking for it and he got it."

If ever there was an apt moment for a heavyweight to state his case, this was it. The March unification fight between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield achieved nothing, and last weekend in New York, the much touted contender Michael Grant, with a shot at Lewis's World Boxing Council title promised to him, allowed the veteran Lou Savarece to last the full 10 rounds. Like the recently retired Joe Bugner, Grant has the firepower but appears to lack to fire that makes great fighters.

Hide has always appeared a man who was born to fight and relishes each opportunity to do so. He had knocked out a string of sparring partners, some might say unprofessionally, in preparation for this fight. And the ugly incidents at two press conferences in the week, with Hide needing to be restrained from attacking Klitschko and a former sparring partner, Danny Williams, most definitely were not hype.

Klitschko's record, now 25-0, all by KO, might have suggested he has a similarly fiery nature. And at 6ft 8in and 18st he is a sight to behold. But any comparisons between the Kiev native's chiselled physique and those of the statutes of ancient Greece must hint at a lack of mobility. Luckily for him, Hide played straight into his hands.

This was Hide's third defence of the title he regained two years ago. An earlier, one-year reign came to an end in March, 1995, when he was battered into submission by Riddick Bowe in Las Vegas. There were excuses then. Bowe was regarded as the world's best heavyweight at the time and Hide had at least shown willing, clambering to his feet several times after being knocked down before finally accepting defeat amidst a flood of tears. Now he will have to embrace the concept that his career at this level is all but over.