Naseem Hamed

From Academic Kids

Known for his flashy style, energetic and colorful ring entrances, speed, power punch, unorthodox boxing style, prodigious ego, taunting of opponents and praises of Allah once his fights are over, Naseem Hamed is a British boxer of Yemeni ancestry born on February 12, 1974, in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Although he did not officially retire, most Boxing cognoscenti consider Hamed's career to be behind him.
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Nicknamed The Prince, Hamed was a boxing prodigy since his early days. He himself confesses that he didn't care much for school because he knew he'd someday become a world champion. Known throughout the first half of his career for his almost inhuman abilities to land extremely hurtful blows, to dodge the fastest punches - and, conversely, in the latter half of his career, for his tendency to be caught by some very obvious ones too - one account claims that his first manager, Brendan Ingle, initially saw a pre-teen Hamed through the lattice mesh of a schoolyard fence, fighting off a gang of older boys who all seemed unable to land a blow on the fast-moving young boy. At the age of 12 he was a top amateur boxer in England and Europe, and at 18 he signed his first contract as a pro. Hamed's elusive, 'hands-down' style was developed at Brendan Ingle's famous gym in Wincobank, Sheffield. However, it was also strongly influenced by the gym's star fighter in the mid-1980s, Herol 'Bomber' Graham.

Hamed rose swiftly through the ranks and in (un)popularity, his excitingly unorthodox style winning a large fan base, and his innate arrogance generating a large group of 'anti-fans'. In 1995 he won his first world title, knocking out Wales's defending WBO world Featherweight champion Steve Robinson in 8 rounds in front of Robinson's home crowd in Cardiff. His first defense came against Austria based Nigerian, Said Lawal, knocked out in only 45 seconds. This was the fastest world title fight ever held in Scotland.

Hamed kept defending his title and then he met Puerto Rican Daniel Alicea. The fight was televised to the United States by Showtime and Hamed was dropped in round one. Whilst in his corner, Hamed was advised to temporarily abandon his his 'hands-down' stance in favour of a conventional defence. Upon returning to the fight, he won by a knockout in round 2.

The next opponent was IBF world champion Tom Johnson who was defeated in 8 rounds in a unification bout, once again in London. Johnson was saved further punishment by the referee, who stopped the fight.

In 1997 he flew to the United States to fight there for the first time. His ceremonious arrival on the British Airways Concorde was covered by multiple media outlets. There, he and former WBC Featherweight champion of the world Kevin Kelley fought Ring Magazine's fight of the year at the Madison Square Garden in New York. This fight marks something of a watershed in Hamed's career, as he was forced, for the first time, to abandon his 'hands-down' style of fighting throughout the entire course of the battle, given the calbre of Kelley. In addition, many of the speed and stamina-related hallmarks of his brilliance, ie the prevalence of combination punching, ability to dodge blows etc, seemed to have degraded somewhat; debate still rages as to whether this was the result of increasing age, or of increasing quality of opponent, or both. Nonetheless, despite being dropped three times himself, Hamed put Kelley down for a third and final time to win by a fourth round knockout. This was his first of many fights on HBO.

In 1998 Hamed enjoyed victories over former 3 time WBA world champion Wilfredo Vazquez (KO in 7), Former WBC Bantamweight world champion Wayne McCollough (W 12), and in 1999 the WBC world Featherweight champion Cesar Soto, (W 12) to add the world Featherweight championship to his resume.

In the eyes of hardened supporters and most observers, both despite and because of blatant flaws in his style of fighting, Hamed by this time had earned an almost mythical status of invulnerability. As one Boxing reviewer wrote, "He does everything wrong except lose". It seemed by this point that, regardless of the opponent presented, as long as that challenger weighed within 10Ibs, he would simply and inevitably lose; any measure of suceess against Hamed only decreased the opponents final standing, being all the more badly bruised and marked for lasting 12 rounds. Nor did it seem to help if you succeeded in knocking Hamed down; all of the three men who had succeeded in punching him to the canvas, namely Alicea, Kelley, and Sanchez had been finally knocked out in increasingly brutal fashion over the years, culminating finally with the carrying away of Sanchez on a stretcher in 2000.

In the eyes of a few Boxing cognoscenti, however, Hamed's downfall was only a matter of time. They pointed to the increasing instances of opponents knocking down Hamed and lasting 12 rounds with him; they attributed this both to Hamed's own declining qualities, ie dulling reflexes, worsening defence etc, and also to the increasing quality of opponents presented before him.

It was in 2001 therefore, to the shock of the great majority of the Boxing community, and to the gratification of a smaller minority of experts and 'anti-fans', that Hamed suffered his first loss, being beaten comprehensively by Marco Antonio Barrera, a champion of long standing, to lose the WBO's version of the Featherweight title. In a reversal of usual policy, Hamed had notably and loudly proclaimed his allegiance in front of the world to his deity, Allah, just before the fight began, in stark contrast both with his previous practice of quietly thanking his deity after the fact, and to Barrera humbly crossing himself. However, certain pundits have speculated that this radical change of policy may have been reactionary to Barrera's observance, prior to the clash, that "Allah won't be in the ring with him in our fight".

He fought a single return match in 2002 against the European Featherweight champion Manuel Calvo of Spain, and annexed the IBO title with a 12 round unanimous decision, despite a knockdown suffered in round seven. Despite, or in some cases because of Hamed's restyling of himself as 'The Fresh Prince', a moniker hinting tantalisingly at a return to the combination punching, fleet footwork and inaccessibility to inbound punches that typified his pre-Kevin Kelley fights, many of his fans as well as some boxing magazines were left unimpressed by his performance, indeed loudly expressing discontent at the continued deterioration of his skills, many seats around the ring becoming vacant as the latter rounds whiled by.

Hamed's spectacular ring entrances have included being deposited in the middle of the ring by an elevator, which was set up specially for the event near the roof of the Manchester arena, being carried into the ring on a king's throne, walking into the ring on a fashion runway style walk way, walking into the ring with a Halloween mask for his fight with McCollough (fought on Halloween night of 1998), and many others.

Hamed's behavior is somewhat strange outside the ring too. He is known for stopping to sign autographs for fans, but he also had an altercation at Heathrow Airport with former world champ Chris Eubank, showing off his belts and reminding Eubank that Eubank was not a champion anymore.

He was managed by Frank Warren but then his brother Riath Hamed took over towards the end of Hamed's career.

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