Boxing: Murray on hiding to nothing: Contenders vie for the vacated British title as the world champion's goodwill tour contains only ill-will for Lewis: Jonathan Rendall weighs up the prospects for tonight's British heavyweight fight

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The Independent Online
FROM the words of his manager you would not think that Michael Murray stands much of a chance when he challenges for the vacant British heavyweight title against the unbeaten Herbie Hide in Dagenham tonight.

Jack Trickett, the plain-speaking Manchester hotel owner who has handled the 28-year-old Murray since his debut in 1988, says: 'Michael is a lazy bastard. Everything about him is lazy. In fact he is a typical lazy man: nothing ruffles him and you've got to coax everything out of him. I'm very fond of Michael, don't get me wrong. But I may be many things but I am not a liar.'

Indeed it is impossible to tip against Hide tonight. According to Trickett, Murray has had only three weeks' notice of the fight and no sparring against heavyweights. The 21-year-old Hide, from Norwich, is on a run of 20 consecutive stoppage victories. Murray has twice suffered defeats (albeit once with a dislocated shoulder) at the hands of one Gypsy Johnny Fury from Haslingden.

The choice of the genial Murray to contest the championship vacated by Lennox Lewis caused even greater disenchantment than usual among the promotional fraternity, some of whom thought their men had better claims. The British Boxing Board of Control dispatched officers to Manchester to check on Murray's preparations before confirming their approval.

If one is to believe all the things that are being written about Hide, it will not be a question of whether Hide beats Murray tonight, but how he looks doing it. Hide's promoter, Barry Hearn, has a lot of money riding on Hide looking good: the pounds 250,000 he estimates he has invested in Hide in the form of 'living allowance, expenses, cars, you name it'. As Hearn said: 'It's not a lot of money in terms of what he could be. But if he turns out to be nothing, well, you're really in trouble.'

In contrast Murray has been supplementing his income by working as a jazz musician. It has even been suggested that he may be a better guitar player than a pugilist. But even on this facet of his charge's skills, Trickett is unenthusiastic. 'To be honest with you I'm not into this modern jazz,' Trickett said. 'Cabaret is more my thing.'

It may be surprising, therefore, to learn that Trickett thinks Murray will win tonight and has backed his judgement with a bet at odds of 4-1. His thinking is that for all his indolence Murray has the temperament of a professional fighter, whereas the molly-coddled Hide does not. 'If you take Hide a few rounds he starts to look like a spoilt kid when you take the ball off him in the street,' Trickett said.

Indeed it is true that all Hide's opponents to date have been handpicked and that Murray, who will have a two-stone weight advantage, has been in with more rugged men. If Murray can survive Hide's opening flurries he could run Hide closer than most people think.

Trickett's only worry is that 'Michael may be just that bit too nice. I've only ever seen him bad-tempered once and the worst thing is I've forgotten what it was about. If I could remember I'd use it on him in the corner during the fight. I don't mind getting in rows as long as he's inside the ropes.'

Also on the bill, Sean Murphy and Alan McKay contest the vacant British featherweight title. It should be a bruising encounter that, if he is not drained at the weight, Murphy can win.