A long-time associate of Herbie Hide has come to the defence of the former boxer and hit back at the behaviour of newspaper reporters who caught Mr Hide in an undercover match-fixing investigation.

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Neil Featherby attended one of the meetings between the former two-time world heavyweight champion and undercover reporters who posed as boxing promoters at the Sprowston Manor Hotel.

Recordings of Mr Hide, who lives in Bawburgh, appearing to tell the reporters how to rig a fight for £1m appeared in The Sun newspaper yesterday.

But Mr Featherby said: “I instantly questioned the legitimacy of the two gentlemen we met. I warned Herbie Hide to exercise caution.

“It was clear to me there were inconsistencies in their (the journalists) cover story and they had little knowledge of boxing.

“At no point were drugs mentioned or match fixing. Herbie informed me of his intention to attend a second meeting – I clearly expressed that I had no further interest in dealing with these gentlemen.”

He added: “I would like to make absolutely clear that I attended one meeting as a friend of Mr Hide, not in any official capacity.

“For the last decade I’ve stood by Herbie Hide as a friend - at no point have I financially benefited from this association.

“It’s my opinion that these journalists tactically manipulated a situation in which a vulnerable adult (Hide) was isolated from those who wish to protect him, for the newspaper’s gain.

“I hope Herbie’s story is heard in full. I’d publicly question the ethics of the individual journalists and The Sun newspaper for printing the story.”

In an interview with the Norwich Evening News and EDP yesterday afternoon, Mr Hide, 41, confirmed he had been approached by men wanting to set up a boxing match in Dubai.

He said they asked him about match-fixing and how much it would cost.

Mr Hide told the Evening News: “I’m thinking it would take at least £1m. They wanted me to arrange it.

“I told them to put £1m into my account and we will start talking.

“I spoke to my mum and dad and said these people want me to set up a boxing match.

“My mum and dad said, tell them to go to hell.”

The boxer said that he had never rigged fights before and was playing along with the ‘promoters’.

“I could never fix a boxing match,” he said. “I knew it was a con so I was trying to con them as well.”

He compared the situation he had been caught up in to a Hollywood movie and said he was shocked at the story.

In a video recording taken by The Sun reporters Mr Hide talks about rigging fights for an alleged betting scam.

He said: “What you want to do is simple, yeah, is to see who the favourite is and get the favourite to go down in the round you call. It will be arranged.”

He added: “Whoever, which round you want, whatever you want as long as you put the money.

“I can guarantee one thing, you can get whoever is the favourite, you can get them to step down for a million pounds.

“You need a big name on good record — yeah, like myself!”

Norfolk police are also investigating allegations that Mr Hide handed the phone of reporters to a drug dealer who then offered them £400-worth of cocaine.

Mr Featherby added: “As a sports professional, if I had witnessed any illegal or inappropriate behaviour or advances I would have reported the incident, without hesitation, to the relevant authorities.

“I’m appalled by the use of drugs at any level in sport or socially. I have given a number of interviews to the press but I wish to reinforce my version of events.”

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