Remember when the heavyweight champion of the world wasn't a group photo? When the titleholder didn't come in triplicate?
You think Dempsey ever needed a bunch of letters after his name? A WBO, or WBA or IBF or the like? Of course not! The only letters he ever needed were "C-H-A-M-P."
Do you think when John L. Sullivan went in and banged on the bar and shouted "I can lick any man in the house!" anyone had to say "Who's he?" Of course not! John L. was the best fist fighter in the world. Everyone knew who he was.
Care to hazard a guess who the heavyweight champion of the world is today? Or, rather, who \o7 they\f7 are? Well, start with Oliver McCall. Ring a bell? Promote an instant image? Pick him out out of a crowd shot of Japanese wrestlers, could you?
He's one of the heavyweight champions of the world. Pick the letters \o7 WBC\f7 out of the alphabet soup and put them next to his name. Put \o7 Co-champ\f7 in there.
How about Herbie Hide? Heard of him, have you? He should fight somebody named "Seek" to put a proper ridiculous light on the story.
Herbie won his title--are you ready for this?--by defeating Michael Bentt. Now, there's a world-renowned name. The title was the World Boxing Organization, which is not exactly a household entity either. If you missed the Bentt-Hide title fight, don't feel bad. Lots of people did. Dempsey-Tunney, it wasn't.
It was held in England, the home country of both Bentt and Hide. Although born in Nigeria, Herbie Hide has spent his life in Britain and had all his fights there or on the Continent. He has won all 26 of them, 25 by knockout.
Herbie's bringing the act to the colonies and is lined up for a title fight with the Yank, Riddick Bowe, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on March 11.
Now, British fighting men--beginning with Cornwallis--have never had much luck invading America. They've usually ended up handing over their swords. They have some difficulty fighting out of a crouch.
Still, Herbie Hide's debut is ambitious. Riddick Bowe is not your basic journeyman setup. In fact, the betting is, Mr. Bowe will turn Mr. Hide into Dr. Jekyll by the fifth round. We won't know whether Herbie's surname is a name or a description.
Of course, this will call to mind Joe Louis' famous crack of an opponent (Billy Conn): "He can run--but he can't hide." A lot of Vegas money is betting by the fifth round there will be neither Hide nor hair of Herbie.
You see, Riddick Bowe is what they used to call the "uncrowned champion," in this business--an appellation that followed, among others, Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore around for years.
Bowe was the crowned champion until he lost the only fight of his pro career in 1993. It is Bowe's contention he lost not to Evander Holyfield that night but to the ultimate gate-crasher who dropped in the ring--by parachute--in the middle of the seventh round.
"The fight was halted for 23 minutes. Evander was about to quit when it happened; he admitted it. The delay helped him but hurt me," Bowe insists.
Bowe, who was in L.A. on a promotional tour for the fight this week, is not impressed with Mr. Hide's professional record. "He's a runner, not a fighter," he said. "And this ain't a track meet. He's going to have to stand and fight."
In other words, Bowe won't let him go Hide.
Bowe is not overly impressed with the reigning World Boxing Council titleholder, McCall, either. "He got his title out of an ash can," Bowe sneers.
Bowe should know. He's the one who threw it there. Along with his championship belt. He threw both the WBC title and the belt in a dumpster in 1993 rather than fight Lennox Lewis. "I was the champ and they offered me $18 million and him $25 million. What would you do?" he wants to know. "I told them to keep their so-what championship."
Lennox Lewis, like a bag lady, rescued the title and belt from the trash, only to lose it a couple of fights later to McCall.
That is really all you have to know about the heavyweight game today. It's no wonder it has a light in the window these days waiting for Mike Tyson to get out of stir and restore some order.
"I saw Mike in prison," Bowe said, "and he's in a good frame of mind. I expect I'll fight Jorge Luis Gonzales, then maybe Evander Holyfield again and next year Mike and I will get together and settle this thing in the ring."
What about the third member of the championship troika, George Foreman?
"George won't fight me. He's 45, I'm 27. (Michael) Moorer fought a stupid fight against George. He stood right in front of him all night. That's like standing in front of an oncoming train. The rest of the fighter gets old. His punch don't. The punch is the last to go."
What about Hide? Well, Riddick believes Joe Louis. He can't.