Herbie Hide: the Norwich boxer who took the world by storm 25 years ago
Herbie Hide celebrates a significant moment of his career on Tuesday – CHRIS LAKEY looks at the larger than life character who took the world by storm
Herbie Hide cuts a trim figure nowadays, remarkable given he is 47 years old and hasn’t thrown a punch in anger in nine years.
It’s a mark of the true professionals that they keep themselves in good order – and Herbie Hide was just that.
A quarter of a century ago today, The Dancing Destroyer was celebrating arguably his finest moment as he lifted the world heavyweight title.
British world champions were less common in those days – especially at heavyweight – and those coming out of Norwich didn’t grow on trees either.
March 19, 1994 saw Hide come up against Michael Bentt for the World Boxing Organisation belt at The Den, then home of Millwall Football Club. The pair had already scuffled at a pre-fight press conference and when it came to the squared circle, Hide outboxed his opponent, knocking him out in the seventh round. Bentt never fought again.
Hide lost his title to Riddick Bowe but then got another go, and in June 1997 beat former IBF champion Tony Tucker in two rounds. Successful defences against Damon Reed and Willi Fischer followed before, in June 1999, he lost to Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko at the London Arena, knocked out in the second round.
Hide finished his career as a cruiserweight - had he been in his prime today, that’s perhaps the division in which he would have fought given he was regarded as a ‘small’ heavyweight.
One man who saw the development of a world champion at first hand was Norwich trainer Graham Everett.
“When he won the title the first time I was a fan, an amateur coach,” says Everett. “When he won it the second time I was in his corner against Tony Tucker and then I had quite a few occasions with Herbie, and was in his other world title corners after that.
“He was something else – he was brilliant, a ridiculously heavy puncher. People talk about him now and he has so much respect all over the world as a heavy puncher. Michael Bennt said it recently and Riddick Bowe said the hardest he ever got hit was by a little heavyweight from England called Herbie Hide.
“And he was little - today, at 14st 4lb, he would have been a cruiserweight; that is what he was, and he would have reigned supreme for a good long time.
“I think the decision then was made by his promotional company, which was Matchroom and Barry Hearn, who got him among the big boys because he had so much confidence in him and cruiserweight was not a fashionable division at the time, not at all.”
Hide had a volatile side; he hated being disrespected: the build-up to the Bentt fight included a press conference spat which ended up with the pair brawling on the pavement outside a London hotel; he had ‘disagreements’ with Danny Williams and Audley Harrison.
So what was he like to work with?
“He listened to what he wanted to listen to,” said Everett. “He must have listened because he was very successful. I was part of his team in later years when I went professional. He worked with Freddie King, Jimmy Mac, Brendan Ingle and then later with Eddie Mustafa ... he had some great trainers, really good trainers, and they all had an input into his career, but he was an individual. Herbie did a lot of very explosive stuff – it is quite hard to teach someone like that anything and I think Herbie did it the way he wanted to do it.
“There was a game plan for Tony Tucker and I can assure you the way he finished that fight wasn’t what the game plan was - not at all. He did completely the opposite to what we worked on. He was going to out-box him but he out-punched him. He went after him and punched him out, had a shootout with him. You have to credit it him, that was his own mind, and the thing is, if Herbie hurt somebody he had to get him out of there, that is what he was. He was a bit of an edgy fighter, an explosive, powerful, edgy fighter.”
Everett says Norwich should be proud of Hide – even though the juxtaposition of brash world boxing champion and ‘sleepy’ rural city was not always a comfortable relationship.
“Think what you like about him as a person, but on boxing achievements he is someone who has done Norwich proud. And I think he is a lot more appreciated now compared to how he used to be.
“He was too big for this city, we weren’t used to anything like that – we went from having area level fighters at best to having a world champion. We didn’t have top pros. Gordon Holmes, bless him, tried for years and years and did everything he could, but there was nobody like Herbie Hide and all of a sudden we have a genuine world class heavyweight and it was a completely different level.”
The highest level of them all.