During the 1980’s Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham was honing his unique style of boxing at the Brendon Ingle St. Thomas boxing gym in Sheffield unbeknown to him at the time he was influencing a young lad of Yemeni decent who would go on to be a top amateur boxer in England and Europe a winner of multiple national titles, by the age 18 he signed his first contract as a professional, that young lad was the self-proclaimed Prince of Boxing Naseem Hamed.
Fighting at flyweight Hamed quickly rose through the ranks with a series of quick knockouts culminating in him comprehensively beating Vincenzo Belcastro in twelve rounds for the European bantamweight title aged 20.
Hamed quickly developed his unmistakable unorthodox style mixed with arrogance and self-belief, Hamed’s popularity grew with every win gaining a large fan base, however his arrogance generated a large group of detractors too, love him or hate him the Prince was here to stay.
After signing for Frank Warren, Hamed, employed spectacular ring entrances in which he began somersaulting over the top rope, the UK version of the USA’s Hector ‘Macho Man’ Camacho, Hamed could also back up his boasting by knocking out increasingly good opposition.
In 1995 The Prince stepped up in weight to challenge Steve Robinson for the WBO world featherweight championship, Hamed won the fight, knocking out his opponent in 8 rounds in front of Robinson’s home crowd in Cardiff.
On the other side of the Atlantic brash outspoken Kevin Kelley was equally tearing up the featherweight division raking up an impressive record of 47-1-2 with 32 Kos a collision course with Hamed was on the cards.
In an unprecedented move HBO signed Hamed to a massive 6 fight deal worth 12million$ to make the fight happen with Kelley, a further fortune was spent on marketing the fight scheduled to take place at the famous Madison Square Garden, Hamed’s face was on every bill board and building in New York much to the annoyance of Kelley …………. A New Yorker.
The media hype around the fight was heightened by both boxer’s expertise at trash talking neither fighter turning down an opportunity to belittle the other, with fight tickets sold out at the garden and millions tuning in around the world, the fight itself would surpass all expectations.
In a thrilling opening round Hamed seemed to have the measure of Kelley flicking out his jab and avoiding his opponents counterpunches with ease, midway through the round and trapped in the corner Kelley caught Hamed with a left hook sending him to the canvas, a moment that had many ring side thinking that the British fighter was just hype, soon they would come to realise he was the real deal.
Round 2 saw Hamed once again touch down from a Kelley left hand but once up began to rally back at the American, both boxers were proven hard punchers it was clear that this fight was going to be a give and take affair especially after Hamed dropped a hard right on Kelley’s chin, smiling from the canvas he pointed at the Prince as he stood up ready to battle on.
Round 3 passed by without any further knockdowns however the frenetic pace would spill over into round 4 in which Kelley scored another flash knockdown, believing he could hurt Hamed easily Kelley perused the knockout abandoning his usual patient style.
Everyone ring side was agreed that one good punch was going to end the fight early but from which fighter no-one could clearly decide, that fighter would be Hamed a destructive left hand dropped Kelley to the canvas for the third and final time.
Prince Naseem Hamed was a fantastic fighter although he lost to Marco Antonia Barrea in 2001 his legacy and achievements should not go un-celebrated, an impressive 36 fights with 31 knockouts Hamed is without doubt one of the greatest fighters to come out of Britain.