Hide leads the fight against logical thinking

Riddick Bowe is odds-on to win the world title tonight. Ken Jones reports from LasVegas
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The Independent Online
The turn of events in boxing lately puts a strain on the convention of logic. It could not, for example, be imagined that George Foreman had the beating of Michael Moorer, but at 46 he demolished the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion.

This setback for rational assessment closely followed the defeat Oliver McCall inflicted on Lennox Lewis. When expected to see off McCall in defence of the World Boxing Council heavyweight title, Lewis was knocked silly in the second round.

If the serious injury Gerald McClellan sustained two weeks ago calls for discreet reflection, Nigel Benn's victory when defending the WBC super- middleweight championship utterly confounded the widespread belief that he was unlikely to last more than two or three rounds against a renowned puncher.

A sensible conclusion is that Riddick Bowe will take the World Boxing Organisation champion- ship from Herbie Hide tonight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas - but that is thinking logically. The champion, at 9-2, has attracted patriotic investment, but the challenger remains a 1-6 favourite. On the evidence of Thursday's weigh-in, there was no room for equivocation. At 17st 2lb, Bowe is almost two stones heavier than Hide (15st 4lb), but he could no longer be described as a fat man. He looks in excellent shape.

However, there is the question of Bowe's attitude. According to McCall, who is defending the WBC title against Larry Holmes next month at Cesars Palace, it all depends on which Bowe climbs into the ring.

"He's the better fighter and much the bigger man, but you never know about him," McCall said. We were in the presence of an expert. Until his trainer, Emanuel Steward, persuaded him to concentrate fully in matters of preparation, McCall was going nowhere.

The change in him is instructional, but it carries no guarantee of permanence. When McCall speaks about Bowe, he could be speaking personally. "If he's up for it, Hide doesn't have a chance. But if he's in a sloppy mood, if he gets frustrated like he did against Buster Mathis, then anything can happen. Hide's awkward, that's for sure, and he will keep on the move."

Unfulfilled talent is one of the oldest stories in boxing. Apart from narcotic and other temptations, there is the slackness that tutors find infuriating. Bowe's trainer, Eddie Futch, holds him in paternal affection, but almost gave up on him.

"Right from the beginning, I told Bowe that natural ability isn't enough. It will only get you so far. One of the problems today is that good fighters, especially heavyweights, can soon become rich.

"Wealth weakens their resolve. Instead of staying in shape they get soft. Bowe has never done drugs. He doesn't booze or play around. He just couldn't stop eating."

Futch regards this contest as the most important Bowe has undertaken. "Winning by itself won't be enough," he said. "Bowe has got to look good. As good as he looked in the first fight against Holyfield. It's the only way he can get right into the scramble that will start when Mike Tyson comes out of prison.

"Mike always had trouble with big heavyweights with mobility and the boxing sense to stay off the ropes. It didn't surprise me when Tyson lost to `Buster' Douglas, because Douglas fulfilled those requirements. So does Bowe. At his best, as committed as Douglas was for that fight, he would beat Tyson. That's what I see in the future if Bowe dedicates himself to the business. It's up to him entirely."

Some see a weakness in Bowe which suggests that Futch does not always have his full attention. They consider him easier to hit than trainers find desirable. None have personally put this theory to the test, but it is offered as an explanation for apparent prejudice. The argument goes that Holyfield found no difficulty in reaching him. This makes no impression on Bowe, who is convinced that he would have beaten Holyfield in their second encounter, but for the interruption by the sensational arrival in the ring of a paraglider. "I could feel Evander weakening," he said, "but the delay enabled him to recover."

Bowe has found resurrection difficult. The arrogance his manager, Rock Newman, displayed in ascendancy resulted in rejection by the alphabet organisations. The WBC, whose belt he cast aside, did not want to know him. Only the WBO, with credibility in mind, were prepared to rate him.

"Why do people keep questioning my condition?" Bowe asked. "Why is that even part of the conversation? I'll admit I wasn't in the best shape for my defence against Holyfield, but I was decent then and I'm in great shape today.

"Things happen for a reason," he added. "I've regrouped. Adversity breeds character, and it's made me much more determined. I haven't come here to play around with this guy."

When referring to Bowe this week, Hide's promoter, Barry Hearn, said: "He was a great fighter, but he's too big, too slow, and he can't land. He'll give a good effort, but he'll fall on his shield.''

Later, in private, Bowe que-stioned Hide's credibility. "Bri-tish fighters are usually rugged and tough, but Hide is no Holyfield, trust me. Let's see how he reacts when I slap him around the head.

"Look at the guys he's fought, and you know he hasn't been tested. He hasn't had my type of experience, and at some point in the fight he'll have to gamble. And that's when he'll be putting himself in a position to be taken. Simple as that."

Really? Some in boxing do not see it that way at all. Teddy Atlas, who trains Moorer and worked with Tyson, believes that Hide will give Bowe plenty of trouble. "Bowe isn't comfortable against guys who give him motion," Atlas said. "He gets frustrated and does silly things. He doesn't concentrate."

Mickey Duff thinks enough of Hide's chances to place a fairly substantial bet on him. Having given the issue methodical attention, a personal view is that Bowe will win inside the distance. But that is thinking logically.