Michael Bentt: The day I brawled in the street with Herbie Hide

By Jimmy SmallwoodBBC Sport
Michael Bentt in 1994
Michael Bentt in 1994

British heavyweights Dereck Chisora and David Haye came to blows outside the ring in Munich on Saturday, and there is one former champion who knows how they must now be feeling.

American Michael Bentt was the WBO heavyweight world champion when he fought challenger Herbie Hide at The New Den, Millwall on 19 March 1994.

But, eight days earlier, the pair came to blows at a photo shoot outside a London hotel,external-link and the brawl made global news as suits were torn, egos were bruised and the sport of boxing was damaged.

Hide won the bout in what proved to be the final fight of Bentt's career.external-link

The defeated champion evolved into a Hollywood star - appearing opposite Johnny Depp in Public Enemies and as Sonny Liston in Will Smith's biopic of Muhammad Ali - and a Shakespearean stage performer of some note.

Now, 18 years on from that fateful and unsightly grapple on the streets outside the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel in London, Bentt reflects and tells Chisora and Haye what they should do next . . .

Thursday 11 March 1994

There was a lot of trash talk going on, you know what I mean?

I was wearing a Millwall baseball cap, who I was supposed to be sponsored by, and the cap flew off of my head.

I figured that was strange, as there was no wind.

It turns out that Herbie had taken it upon himself to remove the cap by slapping my head. It was insulting.

In that environment, your emotions are raw, like an open nerve. Egos were exposed and a fighter has to do everything to protect his ego.

We got into a brawl. I slapped him, he grabbed me, I tore my suit, he grabbed me, I fell on my knees, he grabbed me, he punched me. It was an ugly mess.

There were a lot of media there, and some handlers from his team and my team. They did their best to separate it and break us up.

I'm not saying it was wrong or it was right. It just happened.

Our nerves were frayed and we were on edge. It's intense.

I was 28 years old, had a chip on my shoulder, had a lot to prove. Blah blah blah.

The aftermath of the brawl

Straight afterwards, I went down to my hotel room and called my friends.

Officially, I got fined £7,500 and I was reprimanded and in the press.

But, if I'm going to be completely candid, I felt ashamed. As a fighter and as an actor you have access to emotions but you also have to be disciplined.

Who wants to be rolling around on the goddamn dirt in London? With all these TV cameras. Who wants that image of themselves?

Never mind the sport, forget about the sport. How is it going to make me, Michael Bentt, look as a man?

It was on TV for days afterwards, and that added to my embarrassment. I come from a dignified family.

I stepped out of my disciplined, regimented manner, and it was embarrassing. It was hurtful.

How Haye and Chisora must feel

Honestly, in this age of "I don't give a goddamn what you think about me," they probably don't feel ashamed like I did.

They will feel like they were right. Like it was right to slap Vitali Klitschko and punch the other guy. It was right to threaten him. It's all right.

I don't know what prompted David to smack Dereck. I don't know why Dereck made his threats.

Look, boxers don't just lose it - people lose it. Boxers, as surprising as it may be, are human beings too. They're very sensitive, highly sensitive.

That's why boxers fight, because they're like open sores, open wounds. The slightest thing sets them off.

Boxing will find a way to make this work for it.

Everything that happens, particularly in the public eye, is a lesson for us. Either we get the lesson or we don't. Period.

Let's face it, no-one got killed. But does it give boxing a black eye? Sure it does.