The end of this month (September 30th) will mark 20 years since a certain Prince Naseem Hamed captured the WBO featherweight title in Cardiff Arms Park, Wales, when he stopped local champion Steve Robinson in the 8th round. Hamed was a man who evoked mixed emotions in fans, a real marmite type character. We thought it would be an apt time to pay homage to one of boxing’s most unique ever entertainers – and fighters.
A character and a man who genuinely believed in himself
Many British and Irish boxers have entered the ring and have been remembered as greats or legends whether they have held World titles or not, yet there is one individual that has not been truly given the respect he deserves due to his private life and outside the ring persona.
This individual may have been considered a young upstart at the time, who reveled in the glamour and in some old school trainers and pugilists’ eyes, may have been considered cocky.
However that went to show the confidence this man possessed and he never let any negativity disrupt his game in the ring. I am talking of course about one Naseem Hamed, otherwise known as ‘Prince Naseem’.
Born to Yemeni parents in the steel city of Sheffield, he walked into the Wincobank gym at a young age and was taken under the watchful and nurturing wing of Brendan Ingle who spotted potential in the young, unpolished south paw ragamuffin, and there began the journey that would culminate in world domination of the 126 lbs division (for six years).
He made his bones as an amateur, starting from 1985 as an 11 year old flyweight; he possessed an astonishing record of 62 fights with 5 losses and 18 of his wins came via KO – with 15 of these being inside the 1st 2 rounds.
Amongst his conquests as an amateur was one Spencer Oliver who went on to become European Super Bantamweight champion.
Growing up, he admired the great British and Irish legends, watching them ringside to learn how to become a professional and this fuelled his desire even more, stepping up training regimes and bulking up so that he could be considered as a contender.
In 1992, under the watchful guidance of his trainer and mentor, Brendan Ingle, he took a big step forward and became a professional, winning his 1st bout via a 2nd round KO at bantamweight.
It took another 10 bouts and 7 KO’s to have a shot at the European Bantamweight belt, which he then took from Vincenzo Belcastro via unanimous decision establishing himself as a world champion contender.
He retained this title during his next bout and then decided to step up to super bantamweight, winning his first fight there and successfully defending this belt 5 times before stepping up to the 126lbs / featherweight division.
Taking the boxing world by storm and becoming the world champion
The WBC, IBF and WBO were watching closely at this young man’s meteorically rise to the proverbial top. He could not be ignored any longer and the WBO made him number 1 contender to fight the current WBO featherweight champion at the time, Steve Robinson who held the title for 2 years.
With a record of 19 wins with no losses, he entered the ring as an underdog, many thinking and probably hoping that Steve Robinson would shut this upstart up. In the 8th round, Prince Naseem became WBO featherweight champion and that is when the world began paying attention.
He went on to defend his title 15 times, fighting great fighters and unifying the IBF, WBC and WBO belts in tremendous style before facing a formidable opponent who would educate him in the art of boxing; one Marco Antonio Barrera.
After 35 fights on top, this loss took the edge off him and he began surrounding himself with negative people who eventually would lead to his downfall. He fell out with his mentor Brendan Ingle and left his camp, which to some was the final nail in his coffin.
He fought one last fight at the London Arena a year after his only loss winning via unanimous decision, but he would never be the same again.
The following year, he was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and received a custodial sentence which certainly buried any opportunity of a return to the ring. No one spoke of his name again, for the most part.
Remembering the Prince as the boxing legend he is
I acknowledge that his actions caused pain and misery to other parties but believe we should remember him for the outstanding, entertaining and charismatic world champion that he was – and salute him for putting British/Irish boxing on the World map.
For six years, he was a dominant force and showed his calibre by taking the scalps of all the number one contenders put before him, in astonishing fashion to be fair.
We will never know what could have happened if he stayed focused and knuckled down after the Barrera fight but that is life; it has a way of giving you everything but then in one swift move, it’s all gone.
I would like to think that he has provided inspiration to young fighters who want to be the best and learn that boxing can be a discipline that propels a person to great adventures.
A man who without doubt will be remembered as one of boxing’s greatest entertainers ever, and certainly one of the most explosively brilliant fighters the UK ever produced.
(Images credit: John Gichigi/Getty Images and Chris Steele-Perkins for Magnum)
The post 20 Years Since Winning World Title, Prince Naseem Still One Of Boxing’s Greatest Entertainers appeared first on %%Boxing News and Views/%%.