Another Strange Month for British Heavyweights

By Matt McGrain on December 10, 2013
Another Strange Month for British Heavyweights
Herbie Hide was sentenced to twenty-two months in jail for conspiracy to supply cocaine.

When our heavyweights go bad it is in the smallest and saddest of ways, as shown by Herbie Hide’s depressingly needless fall from grace…

British heavyweights don’t go bad like American heavyweights. Not for our biggest men the psychotically propelled self-hatred of the luminously pornographic Mike Tyson, the bizarre OJ-light stylings of Riddick Bowe, nor even the addiction fueled rampage of Oliver McCall or the snowflake drift of Leon Spinks.

No, when our heavyweights go bad it is in the smallest and saddest of ways, as shown by Herbie Hide’s depressingly needless fall from grace at the end of November that saw him sentenced to twenty-two months in jail for conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Hide was a cruiserweight really and as a heavyweight he manned up in a way that has gone underappreciated in the wake of the unconditionally beloved Frank Bruno and the begrudgingly respected Lennox Lewis, but his record is not so different from the former, finishing at a very respectable 49-4 with wins over Michael Bentt and Tony Tucker. In his losing efforts to both Riddick Bowe and Vitali Klitschko in which he was outsized as much as outclassed, he showed astonishing heart especially against Bowe, which is one of the braver performances witnessed in a British ring at heavyweight. 

Despite all of this, Hide never found the heart of the British people in the same way as Bruno or Cooper, the small but stubborn sliver of gangsterism in his character failing to succumb to either his successes in the ring or the glamorization that afflicted that subculture for the first time in the 1990s. A series of convictions for small time crimes followed, and did not help.

Now, aged forty-two, he is in prison. The circumstances of his conviction are miserable indeed. British tabloid rag The Sun began a sting operation against Hide in the hope of finding evidence of fight fixing in boxing. When they drew a blank, the “undercover” Sun reporter, who had become an associate of Hide, instead “mentioned” that there was a shortage of quality cocaine in the former belt-holder’s hometown of Norwich. Hide offered to put the reporter together with drugs at which point the trap was sprung and Herbie was sentenced to twenty-two months by a judge who acknowledged that the sentence would be longer were it not for the “sting element” to the case. This is also known as “entrapment,” a case where a crime is only committed because of the involvement of a compelling third party. Hide’s defense stated that The Sun’s reporter had pursued his client “relentlessly.”  He was eventually rewarded with four grams of white powder that contained 0.498 grams of cocaine—at least The Sun was right about the quality of drugs in Norwich. 

This seemed to be the trigger for the series of miniature disasters that befell British heavyweight boxers this month at a time when, to paraphrase Nathaniel Hawthorne, we need both a hero and a heroic time. Britain’s number one heavyweight, David Haye, retired last month after announcing a chronic shoulder injury. In fact it was a reasonable move apparently taken upon the advice of doctors, but it will unquestionably leave a bad taste in the mouth of fans in Great Britain. Haye strung Britain’s other ranked heavyweight Tyson Fury (21-0) along nicely before hanging ‘em up, twice cancelling on what would have been a legitimate British superfight and leaving the Manchester giant high and dry.

Fury’s hysterical reaction, the announcement of his own retirement, was ludicrous but understandable and given the state of the division in Britain, rather terrifying. The big man had determinedly kept up a busy schedule on his way to a showdown with David Haye and was showing real improvement, Haye the litmus test. Fury has since unretired, proving that he was rather less than the “one million percent” finished with the sport than he had promised, and although he has become the #1 British heavyweight by default, he has no fight scheduled at the time of writing. 

Officially, Haye is no longer a factor, but I suspect he is not yet finished with the British boxing scene. Having talked his way into a fight with Wladimir Klitschko and then delivering an absolute non-effort in that fight—watch Herbie Hide’s gutsy stoppage loss to the other Klitschko and explain, if you can, why one former cruiserweight crossed over into the mainstream and the other crossed over into Her Majesty’s pleasure—he continued to demand lucrative fights with top heavies. If he should return to boxing, don’t expect it to be a low-key affair. Haye’s showmanship is what set him apart.

In the meantime, fistic Britain consoles herself, in the main, with three heavyweights of note, each bringing with them a unique set of reasons why they are likely to make us miserable.

David Price already has. The two dramatic knockout losses to Tony Thompson underwrote a whole heap of shortcomings on the man who seemed for a time to be a burgeoning war-machine, but has since been exposed as lacking punch-resistance, stamina, defensive nous and any real grasp of strategy. Then in September Price opted to leave British shores and fight under the Sauerland banner in a plan that takes him abroad to rebuild his career, despite discussions with Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn and Frank Maloney. Then in the first week of December Price binned both the British and Commonwealth titles he won in the ring before the Thompson disasters struck, this decision prompted by his determination not to mix it with Dereck Chisora, sabotaging the only balm that could have soothed the wound of the Fury-Haye cancellation. News that Price had retained the services of Adam Booth, so successful in steering David Haye to notoriety if not a legitimate world championship, was at least good on paper, but Price’s withdrawal from his scheduled fight with Evgeny Orlov this weekend due to “a virus” was not.

Speculation about his mental condition swirls, and will continue to swirl until he brutalizes somebody. 

Price will not return to the ring until 2014. 

Nor will Anthony Joshua, who has been forced to pull out of his fight against Dorian Darch, also scheduled for this weekend. Joshua looks like a cross between an underwear model and a tombstone and is in possession of an Olympic gold medal and an MBE, but the public are a little cool on him. The reason? In two words, Audley Harrison.

Harrison also looked the part and was also in possession of a gold medal. The British loved him, but he proceeded to rob the public purse of as much money as possible via his astronomical contract with the BBC whilst simultaneously setting boxing in Britain back twenty years with a series of misfires, non-performances and freakishly bizarre press releases. 

Harrison delivered a truism to the British public about heavyweight boxers, namely that you don’t know until you know, and the British public took it under advisement. Cut to the core, we’ve learned in this country to stress the 3-0 ahead of the body beautiful and wait, wait on the boy and this can only be a good thing for a prospect that does indeed have it all to prove. First he needs to prove his fitness, his ring return planned for February of next year.

That leaves us with last man standing Dereck Chisora (19-4). Chisora, to put it mildly, has issues. Spitting at Wladimir Klitschko, kissing Carl Baker, the embarrassing one-sided beating inflicted upon him by David Haye in the fight the British boxing authorities tried desperately to avoid and undermine, he brings baggage to the ring that makes him unpopular bordering upon reviled in some sections of the media. Personally, I’m glad that Dereck has been rehabilitated, the European champion and 4-0 in 2013. In part I feel that way because his comeback has been built upon that rarest of modern boxing manifestations, activity. Chisora has had weight problems, fitness problems, focus problems. His handlers have struck upon the right formula to keep him in shape and out of trouble, by boxing. It’s an old-fashioned idea and a bloody brilliant one. More than that, I like Chisora. Verbally he’s a literate non-sequitur, a delightful mash-up that makes almost every interview he gives fascinating and his losing effort against Vitali Klitschko was an admirable one. His November victory over Ondrej Pala (TKO3) was admittedly his worst performance of the year but he is up again in February and if he continues to go unbeaten a legitimate title shot against Wladimir is not out of the question in the coming sixteen months.

Unfortunately Chisora is something of a time bomb in terms of temperament. Both an implosion and an explosion are possible long before he makes it into another Klitschko ring, as is the loss to an inferior fighter behind a bad training camp or personal disaster. Rooting for Chisora is the very definition of rooting for a British heavyweight; a temporary state generally brought on by a hormonal imbalance soon to be rectified by harsh reality. Love, really.

In Dereck’s rearview mirror are unbeaten prospects Gary Cornish (17-0) and Hugh Fury (12-0), brother of Tyson Fury. I wonder if they will find any new ways to torture us?

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Arrest after stabbing at Hide house

Herbie Hide vs Tony Tucker, June 1997 - WBO heavyweight title

know the truth about Herbie Hide Bankruptcy

Riddick Bowe vs Herbie Hide

BOXING promoter Frank Warren has branded crooked ex-champ Herbie Hide a "simpleton"

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  1. NYIrish 03:39am, 12/12/2013

    Tyson Fury burst into song after his bout against Cunningham In Madison Square Garden Theater. NYPD should have locked him up for disturbing the peace.  KARAOKE FROM HELL !

  2. Mike Schmidt 05:03pm, 12/11/2013

    Matt why did Joshua pull out- injury? Also how is the younger Traveler of the family, Hughy In the News Fury looking (young and keeping up a very very busy schedule. Wilder and Fury should have a go of it although I don’t think Wilder has the bottle to get it on and will probably cave as soon as Fury cracks him in the short rib ( how am I doing here!!!)

  3. Mike Casey 05:52am, 12/11/2013

    Matt is quite correct. British heavies even do self-destruction in a downbeat and low key way. Frank Warren was right about Hide, though. Dear old Herbie was never quite the full shilling even in his better days. Oh well, as Hercule Poirot once said, what is done is done - and what is underdone is underdone.

  4. Mohummad Humza Elahi 03:46am, 12/11/2013

    Great read, I think everyone cooled on Joshua because he took so long to turn pro and didn’t ride on his Olympic gold straight away whilst the buzz was at it’s peak.  Contrast that to Luke Campbell, who is progressing along nicely.

  5. Darrell 01:38am, 12/11/2013

    Fun read…...the Brit heavies are nothing, if not entertaining.

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