'Prince' Naseem Hamed

If you’re after the brassiest and most entertaining British boxer of all time, look no further than the Prince. With his trademark leopard skin trunks and flamboyantly acrobatic ring entrances, ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed was the ultimate crowd pleaser, dominating the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions for a decade from 1992-2002. At a time when Amir Khan had only just begun to lace up his gloves, Prince Naz was reeling in the viewers; in 2000 at the height of his career, over 10 million Brits tuned in to watch his bout against Vuyani Bungu.

Throughout his relatively short ten year career, Prince earned a staggering £30million. In 2000 alone, he raked in £7.5m, doubling that of David Beckham – not bad considering he only fought twice. His lucrative sponsorship deals with Adidas and HBO made him one of the richest sportsmen in the world, so I suppose we can forgive him some showboating… His priority in the ring seemed to be to show his opponent up, weaving and ducking punches with a smug grin on his face like a dad playfighting with a toddler. Except this dad knocks his children out.

Naz was a show-off, 5ft 4 ½ inches of ferocious arrogance. He choreographed every exuberant entrance he made, each one more spectacular than the last. Highlights included fans being treated to the Prince entering the ring in a Chevrolet Impala, being carried in on a palanquin (poncy word for Ancient Egyptian throne) and recreating the Thriller video in a Scream mask. The entrance before his bout with Bungu has to be seen to be believed. He was suspended over the London audience on a magic carpet, like an angry Aladdin with a gumshield (except I’m pretty sure Aladdin never wore a seatbelt on his carpet), and floated over to the ring.

"I also do Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast"

And if that wasn’t flashy enough, the Sheffield pugilist was greeted at ringside by none other than pop mogul Sean ‘Puff P Diddy Daddy’ Combs. But it was Naseem who was the daddy on that evening when in similarly classy style, he slapped the poor South African all over the ring, ending the fight by knockout in the fourth round, retaining his Lineal and WBO Featherweight titles.

Putting his brazen behaviour aside, there was no doubt that Naz was a fantastically talented boxer. Despite being slated for not training hard enough, he still held a record of 36-1 from 37 fights (31 wins by way of knockout) so it would be fair to say that he was as hard as Phil Mitchell on Viagra.

Turning pro in 1992, he was European Bantamweight and WBC International Super-Bantamweight champion within two years and clinched the WBO Featherweight title in 1995. Naz went on to win the IBF Featherweight title against American Kevin Kelley in 1997 – a fight which won Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” - and added the WBC title to his collection in 1999. Hamed was to defend his WBO title fifteen times before relinquishing it in order for him to take on long-time nemesis Marco Antonio Barrera.

This fight was to be the most important of his career and one of the most poignant for a lot of boxing fans. Hamed recorded his first career loss against Barrera by unanimous decision and not only did it mean losing his Lineal featherweight championship to his arch rival, it also caused a chain reaction that saw television networks lose interest in him, sponsors give up on him and contract offers dry up. He was to fight only once more the following year beating Spaniard Manuel Calvo, but he announced his retirement shortly after.

Many retain that he had the potential to be remembered as a legend but his attitude towards training and his early retirement at the age of 28 led to his downfall. It would be interesting to see where he’d be now had this not been the case.
Naz Vs Richard Pryor? How did that slip through the net?!

Naz was also involved in legal battles for driving offenses that ended in him doing time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, but for us at Sporting Mavericks, we are satisfied in remembering him as one of the most entertaining exports this country has ever produced.

By Jack Briden