Heavyweight Herbie aiming to lead rivals a merry dance

HIS name is Herbie 'Dancing Destroyer' Hide. And like most heavyweight boxers, he has a mouth, and his quips are almost in the same vein as his hero Muhammad Ali.

''If you can't dance, you got no chance,'' whispers Nigerian-born Hide, ad-libbing in the style Ali made famous.

Apart from the quick lines, he is also being proclaimed as the next Ali - by Barry Hearn, his manager, business partner and close friend.

''In Herbie Hide we have the second coming of Ali. He is a legend in the making,'' boasted Hearn, yesterday at a press conference held to announce plans of a title fight in Hong Kong, possibly in the autumn.

''He can move, he can dance, he can punch,'' went on Hearn, praising Hide. The young boxer, only 22 - the third youngest heavyweight boxer to win a title in the highest division - sat impassively beside Hearn, perhaps basking in all the adulation.

It was hard to make out what Hide was thinking. As is the fashion with so many sportsmen these days, he was wearing dark glasses indoors.

''No, I don't wear these glasses to hide a black eye. In fact I have never had a black eye in all my life, nor have I ever had a nose bleed,'' said Hide answering a question about his penchant for always wearing dark glasses.

''The only time I had a nose bleed was when I was a small kid. Never in the ring. When I fought the defending WBO champion Michael Bentt, I never got hit at all in the head. I didn't get a single mark on my face,'' added Hide.

With a current professional record of 26 fights, 26 wins and 25 knockouts, one has no option but to believe Hide. Dispute at your risk, especially after the last man he fought - American Bentt - was sent straight to hospital and may never fight again.

It was that fight which won Hide his World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title last month. And now he is hungering for more.

''His next title fight will be against Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield or Mike Tyson,'' says promoter Hearn. ''Herbie will fight three times in the next 12 months.'' If he is fazed at the prospect of coming up against the big men in boxing, Hide hides it well.

''I'm not bothered about who I fight next. That is up to Barry. But it would be a dream to fight a legend like Tyson . . . of course I will beat him,'' adds Hide, with no hint of modesty.

His stint in the ring as a fighter has lasted only four years so far. But he is already being mooted as Britain's most famous boxer in the past 100 years - and the flag-bearer into the 21st century.

This also does not bother Hide. He only has dreams of emulating Ali and becoming as famous as the man who brought a new scope to heavyweight fighting with his float-like-a-butterfly sting-like-a-bee routine.

''Ali is my idol. He was a natural and I would like to be like him,'' said Hide. ''I would like to go out there and be able to miss punches like Ali did.'' Hearn believes that his find (who has been with him since he was 18), is already a throwback to the days of Ali, when heavyweight boxing was a vision of huge men moving light and fast across the canvas and not just standing and hammering it out.

''One day you will be able to tell your grandchildren that you sat at a press conference with Hide,'' said Hearn.

The Dancing Destroyer, sat impassively. Afterwards, however, he went shopping. Well, we can also tell our grandchildren, that beneath all that muscle, was a person like anyone else.