29/11/2013 11:53 GMT | Updated 29/11/2013 11:56 GMT

Herbie Hide, Former Boxer, Jailed For Selling Cocaine

British heavyweight boxer Herbie Hide after beating J. Pritchard (not in picture) at the Alexandra Palace in London, 12th December 1992 (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Former world champion boxer Herbie Hide has been jailed for selling cocaine after a court heard he fell for a "Fake Shiekh" sting operation set up by an investigative journalist.

Hide arranged to supply the class A drug to Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood after a series of meetings at a hotel near Norwich in January and February.

During a sentencing hearing at Cambridge Crown Court, defence lawyers questioned the use of "entrapment" tactics to target the 42-year-old.

Hide, of Long Lane, Bawburgh, near Norwich, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC sentenced the boxer, who has previous convictions including criminal damage, battery, threatening behaviour and carrying a knife, to 22 months in prison.

Photo gallery Herbie Hide See Gallery

He said he had reduced the sentence, partly because of the "sting element".

Martin Budworth, mitigating for Hide, said Mr Mahmood and his assistant had pursued his client "relentlessly" despite his attempts to remove himself from the encounter.

A friend of Hide described him in a statement read to court as a "pubescent boy in a grown man's body".

"I hesitate to say this, but it is a case of Jekyll and Hyde - far from his public persona, he is a shy man and a vulnerable man and was ripe for the picking by experienced and professional men like Mr Mahmood," Mr Budworth said.

Hide celebrates beating J. Pritchard in 1992 at the Alexandra Palace in London

"I'm not here to criticise the paper for its conduct but this is not a case where the Sun has in any way unearthed a massive conspiracy.

"This was not a case of crime fighting or exposing a criminal, this was a case of selling newspapers.

"If anybody instigated this offence, it was Mr Mahmood and his assistant."

Hide's adoptive father, Alan Hide, told the court his son had learning difficulties.

He said: "Once he becomes your friend, he's your friend for life."

Prosecutor Chris Youell described how Mr Mahmood, dubbed the Fake Sheikh because of his technique of acting as a wealthy Arab, originally targeted Hide as part of an investigation into fight fixing.

"Mr Mahmood was effectively a customer being sold drugs for money," he said.

"It was an isolated incident which would not have happened had Mr Mahmood not enticed Mr Hide into doing something illegal."