Fight talk at fever pitch

Donal Scully

TOP-LINERS Herbie Hide and Tommy Morrison turned up the heat as the countdown to their WBO heavyweight title clash at the Hong Kong Stadium continued yesterday.

The fighters gave diametrically opposed views of both their own and their opponents' abilities with just five days to go before Sunday's showdown.

American Morrison, the challenger and former title holder, spoke after a sparring and training session at the American Club in Tai Tam yesterday.

'This is the most important fight of my career. I always fight to the level of my competition. When I lost the title to Michael Bentt there was no incentive for me.' Morrison, 25, lost his first WBO challenge to Ray Mercer in 1991, then won it from George Foreman in June last year, only to surrender the belt to Bentt in his second defence. Hide then took the title from Bentt in March this year.

'The motivation was not there against Bentt,' said Morrison whose professional record reads 41-2-1. 'Now with the title at stake the motivation is back. The first time I saw Herbie Hide was against Bentt.

'I see a guy who is very straight up. I see a lot of vulnerability. What will he do when someone hits him back or when his back is against the wall. I didn't recognise Bentt in that fight. He looked like he didn't want to be there.

'I see Hide in the position I was in when I fought Ray Mercer. When it came to the moment of truth things collapsed around me. I had won some fights, but nobody decent. I see that scenario with Hide.

'We expect him to move. He has got power, good hand speed. He throws punches from all angles. But he does those things because he can dictate the speed of the fight. But now he will face someone who has the same hand speed and greater punching power.

'Patience has to be a big factor. The main objective is to be patient.' Hide, the Nigerian-born, Norwich-based Briton who is unbeaten in 26 fights painted a different picture of his first title defence which will be in the open air.

'With Tommy Morrison you only get one thing,' said Hide after a relatively light workout at the Happy Valley racetrack yesterday.

'It's left hook and right hand. It's the same all the time. It won't be any different. He knows himself. He cannot change. A big left hook and a big right hand over the top.' But Hide did concede a slight chance to Morrison.

'His chance is a puncher's chance. He may win, but he can't win by outboxing me because as far as I'm concerned he couldn't tie my shoelaces.

'But if he does connect it means I can get a good shot. I have not been knocked out before. When I connect he will definitely go down.

'Tommy Morrison has slow feet. I'm accurate. If he keeps coming I will keep punching. One-two, he comes forward. Three-four, I hit him and go. If any of those connect he will go. If he keeps coming I will keep punching. If he goes back I will punch him. He has nowhere to go in the ring.

'As far as speed and skill go I'm a class above him. All he has is the power.' You must admit I have power too. I have enough power to knock him out.'