Boxing: Hide takes on a fast lady in quest for redemption

Eccentric British heavyweight is back in the ring and hungry for success
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Herbie Hide has never been in quite the same league as Mike Tyson either as a fighter or a serial miscreant, though he has done his share of behaving badly. Indeed, these past few days he has even been attempting to beat up a woman.

Don't worry. It's quite legit. The lady in question has been cheerfully enduring the two-fisted assault. Jessica Rakoczy, a feisty Canadian, happens to be a female world lightweight boxing champion who has been sparring with Hide to help sharpen his speed for his fight at the Nottingham Arena on Friday against the Brazilian Rogerio Lobo.

As the 26-year-old Rakoczy stands seven inches shorter than the 6ft 3in Hide and is some six stones lighter, it may seem a case for the Equal Opportunities Commission, but Hide explains: "I use her because she's fast on her feet." And presumably he pulls his punches?

"No way. I never pull punches. She's just so damn hard to hit. She's real pretty, too, under that headguard. All woman. But that doesn't stop us having wars in there."

And does she hit him back? "Well, she tries to." No damage done, then, as the heavyweight enigma from Norwich goes about the business of redeeming himself in the ring and out.

It is more than 10 years since Barry Hearn, then his promoter, was heard to proclaim on TV that "Herbie Hide is going to be the greatest heavyweight the world has ever seen". There were times when some wondered whether he would struggle to become the greatest heavyweight Norwich had ever seen, but eventually he went on to become the British champion and to twice win and lose the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) title under the sobriquet of "The Dancing Destroyer". Even now, he has the perfect profile for a world heavyweight champion - the height, the punch, the mobility and the mouth. Plus a home in Las Vegas. There is sound argument for suggesting that for some time he has been Britain's most talented heavyweight apart from Lennox Lewis.

Unfortunately that talent has a record dotted with blips on both sides of the ring. The most recent brush with the law was a £750 fine imposed by Norwich magistrates after he admitted being in possession of an open-bladed knife when he was arrested following a nightclub fracas. For this he was given a severe reprimand by the British Boxing Board of Control and warned that future misconduct could result in his being banned.

It was not the first time the Nigerian-born Hide has been hauled before the Board. There was the battle of Bethnal Green last summer when he fell off a table in an ugly mêlée which followed Audley Harrison's victory over Matt Ellis.

Hide was chased from York Hall by an angry mob after a foul-mouth ringside slanging match with the Olympic champion. Both he and Harrison were fined by the Board and Hide famously remarked: "I know I'm nuts".

There was another notorious incident when he brawled with the American Michael Bentt at a press conference before his first WBO title fight, and another public flare-up when he had to be restrained from attacking heavyweight rival Danny Williams, who claimed to have knocked him down in a sparring session.

It is the echo of this which raises some alarm now that he and the recently dethroned British champion Williams have been ordered to meet in an eliminator for the European Union heavyweight title. It is a genuine grudge match and one for which Hide is using the Nottingham outing against the undistinguished Lobo as a warm-up. It adds spice to promoter Mick Hennessy's tasty BBC bill which features the outstanding former ABA champion Carl Froch's challenge for the Commonwealth super-middleweight title against the Ghanaian holder, Charles Adamu.

In a 35-fight career which began in 1989, Hide has lost only three times, all to big hitters - Riddick Bowe, Vitali Klitschko and Joseph Chingangu, although he claims he was knocked down by the Zimbabwean after the referee had told them to stop boxing. Now he says his continuing rehabilitation will show he remains a credible force, dealing first with Williams ("it's the moment of truth"), acquiring the British, European and then another world title. "A real one, though, not the WBF belt Harrison and that Dutch guy are fighting for. That's a joke. Audley has devalued himself. It's the sort of thing that when you go to McDonald's they'll give away free as part of the dinner deal."

It is hard to believe that Hide is still only 32, young in heavyweight terms, and only two months older than Harrison, though he claims Audley is nearer 34. "He was 29 for three years when he won the Olympic title."

So are Hide's days of volatility behind him? He seems to have airbrushed past aberrations from his mind. "Here I am sitting nice and peaceful with my beautiful wife and two lovely kids and you talk about me being volatile. I'm not even sure what it means."