Boxing: Hide seeks another chance to chin and bear it

Winning has started to become a habit, but to suggest that Herbie Hide is a heavyweight force again would be to ignore the fact that his chin has yet to be tapped in his latest comeback. Veterans of the brutal game will reel off examples of boxers who were knocked cold and were never the same again. Chins are like a car's bodywork; once badly damaged, no amount of panel beating can restore them to their original strength.

Yet the signs were there for all to see last week that, at 32, Hide still has something to offer British, if not world, boxing as a pugilistic panel- beater. His latest comeback attempt now stands at 2-0 following a one-round dismantling of the Zambian Joseph Chingangu. "The last time I fought him, he hit me on the break. Everyone forgets that - but now I'm back," Hide said after putting the record straight following that humiliating and disturbing defeat in Newcastle 16 months ago.

Those who then saw Hide crumble inside six minutes to Chingangu walked away convinced they had witnessed the last of the Norwich fighter. He was unsteady on his feet long after the ring lights had been switched off, and there was a vacant look in the eyes that seemed to signal, for his own safety, that there should be no more back-slapping walks to the square ring.

Happy to take criticism stemming from three bad career nights on the chin without toppling over, Hide continues to lack nothing in courage and self-belief. Anyone who gets up six times to resume battle with Riddick Bowe in his prime has a ticker.

However, having bombed out Michael Bentt to win the World Boxing Organisation title in 1993, hismanhandling by Bowe in 1995 got the one-hit wonders interested in having a swing. The big Ukrainian Vitaly Klitschko was the second man to find, in 1999, that whenever he located Hide's chin the fold habit resurfaced. In Hide's defence, something he doesn't pay much attention to, both Bowe and Klitschko were high-class, while Chingangu might be out of Africa but he's not exactly out of this world.

Hide, who has given the impression that he is never far from the self-destruct button, and who has a string of well- documented skirmishes with the police, moved to Las Vegas last year. The relocation brought some new faces into his life and he began working with former world champions Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Mike McCallum, as well as the intimidating Steve "Crocodile" Fisch, Mike Tyson's former cheerleader, and a violent man whose reputation calls for expletives to be spewed in an opponent's direction at every opportunity.

In brushing aside the inept Chingangu to take his career record to 34 wins against those three defeats, Hide issued a broadside to Britain's two leading big men - Lennox Lewis excepted, of course - Danny Williams and Audley Harrison, in a manner which suggested Crocodile's influence has taken root.

"My message to Audrey and Danny Williams is: 'I'm coming for you'. How many people do you see get knocked out and then come back in the way I have? In boxing, one punch can change everything. Williams is a pussycat and Harrison says he will fight me in five fights' time. I fought for the world title at 22 years old and won it. He's 31. What's he waiting for?"

A showdown with either Williams or Harrison would be an interesting match-up. The result of any permutation featuring the three contrasting boxers is not clearcut, and as long as Hide can keep his wits about him and his chin out the way there are some fiery nights ahead for British fans. For all the talk about his chin, when Hide hits an opponent they stay hit. Which is a stern test itself for the chins of Williams and Harrison.

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