HEARD the one about the heavyweight boxing champion who was scared of the dark? Britain's Herbie Hide, nicknamed 'The Dancing Destroyer' is that man. Hide has a 26-0 record with 25 KOs which has made him the WBO title holder. He models himself on Muhammad Ali. In the ring he snarls and stares and packs a fearsome punch. He likes to use the phrase 'put the lights out' to describe what he'll do to opponents - and he usually keeps the promise. But if the lights really do go out then Herbie gets the jitters. 'I'm terrified of being alone in the dark,' confessed Hide this week during his short stay in the territory promoting his October 23 title clash with American Tommy Morrison. 'When I was 18 I was so scared one night I had to get into bed with my mum and my little brother. I had been watching a horror film on TV. It scared me but I couldn't stop watching it. Then I went up to bed and kept imagining it. So I ended up going to my mum and brother.' It sounds like the myth of the elephant rearing at the sight of a mouse. It also smacks of pre-fight gimmickry. But Hide, an edgy, reticent young man who takes time to come out of his shell in an interview, becomes effusive when recounting the childhood terror which still haunts him. His reason? Although haunted he has turned the fear to his own advantage by confronting it. 'I don't know if ghosts exist, but after I've finished my day's training I often go for a walk in the woods at night to get my mind so that I am scared of nothing. I go out on my own in the dark to see what's out there. Nothing else can scare me after that. I am prepared to die to win. I will do anything to win.' The woods are in Norwich, East Anglia, the town Hide has called home since going to live in England as a two-year-old from Nigeria. Even when he trains in Romford, near London, where his manager Barry Hearn operates from, he still seeks out a suitably scary area of woodland in which to confront his personal demons come nightfall. Aged 23, Hide is a lethal weapon in the ring. His chiselled physique and sculpted upper body definition are impressive enough and when he starts dancing and flashing his quick hands it's clear he is in his element. He lets his fighting do the talking. But he isn't too comfortable when it comes to actually talking. In the lobby of his Causeway Bay hotel one day this week he literally squirmed in his seat while contemplating answers to questions, fidgeting and appearing to be uninterested. He became particularly uncomfortable when brushing over the white English father he never knew, preferring to dwell instead on his mentor, Chris Scott, the man who helped him most in his boxing. 'When I was 12 I joined Norwich Lads' Club and that's where I met Chris Scott. He coached me. He used to pick me up from school and drive me to the club. He saw I had talent. We became close friends. He's more a father figure to me now. 'If I have a problem he will help me out. He will be here for the fight. Chris Scott is my biggest inspiration after Ali. If I have a doubt about boxing I will ask him and go ahead and do what he says.' Hide took up boxing as a way of avoiding extra schoolwork while a pupil at a GBP4,000-per-year preparatory school near Norwich. 'That's when I put on my first boxing gloves,' Hide explains. 'Every Thursday night we had a PE master who used to teach us to box. If you took boxing it meant you didn't have to do prep [extra lessons]. That's why I took up boxing - to avoid extra classes.' Although Hide dodges unwelcome questions like he does upper cuts and body shots in the ring, there is one topic he is always glad to return to - boxing, and his own greatness. 'At the end of the fight I will still be heavyweight champion,' he states. 'Morrison has a job on his hands. Even at his best he has a job on his hands. He fought well against [George] Foreman but Foreman is over 40. Morrison has been knocked down. He has had a lot of hard fights. Foreman hit him a lot. And a blow to the head by a 16 stone guy is not going to do you any good. It will catch up with him. 'He is fighting a younger man who is hungry, who is getting used to the good times and who refuses to lose to anybody, who would rather die than lose. He will have to kill me to beat me. This is my title and I'm not coming all this way to lose it.' Message received loud and clear. Hide is confident enough to feel he can do for the WBO what Larry Holmes achieved for the IBF . . . making it a credible body in boxing circles. 'The WBO is quite a new body but I will earn it respect. My next fight after this will be against [WBA and IBF champion Michael] Moorer and I will put his spark out.' In preparing for this fight at Hong Kong Stadium with Morrison, Hide's camp have enlisted the help of steeplechaser Mark Rowland, a Seoul Olympic bronze medallist for Britain. Rowland has been giving Hide fitness training. Says Rowland: 'It's mostly stamina work. I don't get involved with the boxing but we want him to be ready, if necessary, for 36 minutes on his feet.' Although the Hide camp have settled on the Hong Kong Football Club as their training base for the fight, Rowland and Hide have spent much of their three days in the territory seeking out suitable alternative running tracks and road running routes for when Hide returns here in early October. 'It's paying off training with Mark Rowland,' says Hide. 'I'm being professional. I'm using the right guys. I'm training with an athlete who knows about running. It's got to pay off.' But Hide says he hasn't yet found a suitably dark and fearsome stretch of forest in Hong Kong where he can continue to face down the ghouls and monsters who could help him put Tommy Morrison in perspective.