‘Dancing Destroyer’ boxer with ‘hardest punch’ was ‘buried’ by coke sting

Boasting formidable power, killer instinct and quick feet, boxer Herbie Hide was labelled the 'Dancing Destroyer'.

In 1994, promoter Barry Hearn even described Hide as the "second coming of Muhammad Ali".

He made the bold comparison after Hide knocked out Michael Bentt to claim the WBO heavyweight title in a bout at Millwall's The Den stadium. Bentt was taken to hospital and never fought again.

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Hide, unbeaten in his first 26 fights and with 25 wins by knockout, was making waves.

On top of his prowess in the ring, he also possessed a venomous tongue, proving good value in slanging matches with his rivals.

A year after his victory over Bentt, 6ft 2ins Hide, who would later drop down to a more natural cruiserweight, defended his title against American Riddick Bowe, who at 6ft 5ins was considerably taller and heavier.

Hide came out firing, hurting the much bigger Bowe with some powerful blows. Eventually, though, the size difference told and Bowe knocked out Hide in the sixth round.

Afterwards, Bowe, who had fought the likes of Evander Holyfield, Michael Dokes and Buster Mathis Jr, said Hide was the hardest puncher he'd faced.

He said: "He hit me and I thought, “ Oh s***. I can’t allow this guy to hit me again because I don’t know what I’ll see next."

Born in Nigeria, Hide moved with his family to England at a young age and grew up in Norwich.

He launched his boxing career in 1989 and by the time he hung up his gloves in 2010, at the age of 39, he'd won 49 of his 53 fights and held two WBOP heavyweight titles.

But a dark cloud was cast over him in 2013 when he was jailed following a drugs sting involving Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood, aka the 'Fake Sheikh'.

Hide was lured by Mahmood to a hotel outside Norwich. He believed he was there to meet businessmen to discuss arranging fights in the Middle East.

Those businessmen, though, were in fact undercover reporters.

During the meeting, which was caught on film, Hide provided the reporters with a number for a man, Ben Sharman, who supplied them with four grams of cocaine.

When the drugs were delivered to the undercover reporter, he was arrested and charged.

Hide was also accused of offering to help throw a world title fight for £1million.

He denied the allegation, later telling the Norwich Evening News: "I could never fix a boxing match.

"I knew it was a con so I was trying to con them as well."

The retired boxer, who had previous convictions including criminal damage, battery, threatening behaviour and carrying a knife, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and was jailed for 22 months. Sharman was jailed for 20 months.

Sentencing, Judge Mark Lucraft QC said he had shown leniency to Hide due to the "sting element".

After his release from prison, Hide was close to tears as he opened up to ITV in 2016.

He said: "I will never be the same again. Mentally, it's messed me up. I'm depressed.

"Hannah, my little girl, came back from school and asked her mother, what does a drug dealer mean?"

In another interview he said of Mahmood: "He's ruined my life. He's completely buried me now."

On his time behind bars, he added: "If that's prison I've been in prison all my life anyway. I've been in prison from the first time I stepped into England.

"It's exactly how boarding school is and exactly how boxing training is – you get up, go to the gym, get on with training and go to sleep. It's no different apart from you're not getting a few hundred thousand after it.

"I'm a tough man, naturally born tough, it's nothing for me. It was a bit like training for a fight, like me going to training camp. I was in great condition, I was running every day."

Mahmood was jailed in 2016 for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos. He was sentenced to 15 months behind bars after being found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

It followed a sting operation by Mahmood, who was still working for the Sun on Sunday newspaper.

Hide described the conviction as "fantastic". Outside court he said: "I'm happy he got sentenced, that's all I can say. Very happy.

"I was there (prison) for four months and I cried every day. I thought I was never going to get out again.

"My kids came to visit me and I thought 'Oh my goodness, am I ever going to see my kids again?' That's the shock it has on you and he's going to have that shock as well."

Hide, who turns 51 today, is still based in Norwich where he appears to keep a low profile, staying off social media.

His son Henry appeared to be following in his dad's footsteps, launching his own boxing career.

He told ITV in 2019: "I only decided to get into it as I became a man and grew up. My younger years I did do boxing but I never took part in any competitions. I'm now six bouts, six wins."

The move, though, brought concern for his dad, who said: "When I fight, I fight with bad intentions. I'm now scared that somebody might have that bad intention on my little boy.

"So it's scary, horrible… scary."


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