Naseem Hamed (born November 1, 1974) is a British boxer and former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion born to Yemeni parents who emigrated to Sheffield. Hamed adopted the moniker "Prince" Naseem Hamed, (although he is not a prince and has no royal or noble lineage) He is known for his flashy and arrogant style, colourful ring entrances, unorthodox southpaw stance, and explosive power.
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 palanquin, walking into the ring on a fashion runway style walk way, and walking into the ring with a Halloween mask for his fight with McCullough (fought on Halloween night of 1998).
Hamed is also known for unorthodox behaviour outside the ring. He had an altercation at Heathrow Airport with former world champion Chris Eubank, showing off his belts and reminding Eubank that he was no longer a champion. He was managed by Barry Hearn then Frank Warren and finally by his eldest brother Riath Hamed. In May 2006 he was jailed for 15 months for dangerous driving but was granted an early release in September 2006. It has been claimed that when he was jailed, he weighed 170-180 lb, well over the featherweight limit (126 lb) where he was a defending world champion.
He began boxing at the age of 7 when his father sent him to Ingle's gym to learn to fend for himself because he was very small. 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 St. Thomas Boxing school gym in Wincobank, Sheffield. and was strongly influenced by the gym's star fighter in the mid-1980s, Herol 'Bomber' Graham.
Hamed started boxing professionally at Flyweight in 1992. He soon began rising through the ranks as he knocked out a series of opponents in the opening rounds. Age 20 he won the European Bantamweight title, comprehensively beating the beleaguered Vincenzo Belcastro in twelve rounds. After one defence he added the WBC International Super-Bantamweight title to his C.V in 1994, overwhelming Freddy Cruz in Sheffield, whom he knocked out in the sixth round. Hamed's popularity grew, his unorthodox style winning a large fan base, and his arrogance generating a large group of detractors. After signing for Frank Warren, Hamed, employing spectacular entrances in which he began somersaulting over the top rope and entering the arena to Here Comes the Hotstepper, knocked out increasingly good opposition such as Jose Badillo and Juan Polo Perez. Later in 1995, arguably his finest year, Hamed moved up to featherweight having been named number one contender to face Wales' defending WBO world Featherweight champion Steve Robinson. Hamed won the fight, knocking out his opponent in 8 rounds in front of Robinson's home crowd in Cardiff. His first defence came against Austrian based Nigerian, Said Lawal, knocking him out in only 45 seconds. This was the fastest world title fight ever held in Scotland.
Defending his titles
Hamed's title defences included a fight against Puerto Rican Daniel Alicea. The fight was televised to the United States by Showtime and Hamed was carried to the ring on a throne. Shockingly, he was dropped in round one. While in his corner, Hamed was advised to temporarily abandon his hands-down stance in favour of a conventional defence. Upon returning to the fight, he won by a knockout in round 2.
Hamed's next fight was in Dublin against former two time world champion Manuel Medina. Hamed received a tough fight against the Mexican, despite dropping him three times. The end came when the ring side doctor advised Medina's corner to stop the fight. Hamed fought with a heavy flu. His next opponent was Remigio Daniel Molina from Argentina, Hamed stopped him in two rounds.
The next opponent was IBF world champion Tom "Boom Boom" Johnson who was defeated in 8 rounds in a unification bout at the London Arena. Johnson was saved further punishment by the referee, who stopped the fight. The new WBO and IBF world champion successfully defended his titles against Juan Gerardo Carbrera.
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 2 time WBC Featherweight champion of the world Kevin Kelley fought in 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 bout, given the calibre of Kelley. 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. The fight was ranked 100th in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 2002.
Naseem relinquished his IBF belt due to the conflict in interests between the IBF and WBO.
In 1998 Hamed enjoyed victories over former 3 time WBA world champion Wilfredo Vazquez (KO in 7), Former WBC Bantamweight world champion Wayne McCullough (W 12), and in 1999 the WBC World Featherweight champion Cesar Soto. The Soto fight was a very controversial match due to the latter rounds in which Soto would apply pressure by clinching Hamed, but Hamed countered by tackling Soto to the ground and using several "misplaced" knees to Soto's groin and head, which knocked the wind out of Soto. A simple point was deducted and the fight continued, ending with an Hamed victory (W 12) allowing him to add the world Featherweight championship to his resume.
Had Vazquez not been (deliberately) stripped by the WBA of his belt (they did not want their featherweight title unified with the WBO) Hamed would have the distinction of being the first boxer to hold all four world titles in a division. This is an overlooked accomplishment of Prince Naseem. The WBA would not grant him a subsequent shot at their championship.
As with the IBF belt two years previous, Naseem had to relinquish his WBC world belt due to his commitment to being WBO champion. After this, Naseem vowed to put boxing politics behind him.
Dethroned by Barrera
Hamed finally lost on April 7, 2001 at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. His record at the time was 35-0 and his opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera had a record of 52-3. The bout was delayed a full hour as Hamed's elaborate entrance, involving fireworks, loud music, spectacular lighting, and conveyance to the ring on a motorised seat suspended from a catwalk, was prepared. Before the fight, Hamed was a heavy underdog with bookmaker's odds of 8:1 consistently in his contrast. Hamed could not hit Barrera with his trademark lefts as the Mexican champion circled to his left and worked both head and body. Barrera was not a fan of Hamed's antics and responded to Hamed's punches during clinches. On one occasion early in the fight, Hamed grabbed Barrera and they both fell to the ground where Barrera threw a really powerful right hook leading to a warning from referee Joe Cortez. Ultimately, Barrera threw more punches, harder punches, and more impressive combinations. Barrera was awarded the victory via a unanimous decision, with the scorecards reading 115-112, 115 -112, 116-111, and won the vacant IBO Featherweight title. In the 12th and final round Barrera trapped Hamed in a hold, and nudged his head into the turnbuckle, resulting in a point deducted by referee Joe Cortez. Quite notably, Prince Naseem's trainer Emanuel Steward has made criticisms to the training schedules of his fighter before and after the fight according to the BBC channel in which the trainer has threatened to quit training Prince Naseem.
On the 18th May 2002, Hamed returned to the ring against a nobody for what was his final fight against the European Champion Manuel Calvo. The fight was for the vacant IBO Featherweight Title vacated by the man who inflicted Naseem's only loss, Barrera.
Naseem won the fight on a unanimous decision, but it was far from a convincing performance. The old swagger, speed and punching accuracy appeared to be gone. Vague talk of a return to the sport has swirled around the fighter ever since, but no firm plans have ever been made.
Hamed employed a unique style that flummoxed lower-caliber opponents and contributed to his tremendous popularity. Hamed's most powerful punch was a straight left that was known to knock strong fighters out in a single shot. He rarely threw combinations in excess of three punches, which were usually composed of two right jabs followed by a straight left, hook, or uppercut. Because Hamed threw his left with such ferocity, he often lost his balance, a stylistic defect that opponents such as Kelley and Marco Antonio Barrera took advantage of. For defence, Hamed relied mainly on his sharp reflexes to avoid his adversaries' punches, rarely blocking shots and preferring to back away from strong attacks. His quick feet prevented him from getting stuck against the ropes or in corners. Hamed clinched infrequently, primarily because he was not usually sufficiently fatigued to warrant such tactics. When in clinches he would often throw lefts to opponents' heads.
Hamed was also known to clown around in the ring. When hit cleanly he would smile at opponents, make faces, shake his head, and shrug his shoulders to indicate that he was unhurt. Hamed sometimes danced in the ring and, ever the showman, usually entered by doing a flip over the ropes. Hamed's opponents did not generally respond to his taunts and horseplay, but his best, Barrera, was sufficiently infuriated by Hamed's flippancy to drive "Naz's" head into a turnbuckle in the twelfth round of their fight costing himself a point.
Naseem was never the same without his first coach and mentor Brendan Ingle. His unique style was understood by the man who helped hone it, and Emmanuel Steward and others who trained Hamed for his later bouts tried to introduce combination punching and other methods he was unused to.
In the eyes of hardened supporters and some observers, both despite and because of flaws in his style of fighting, Hamed had earned a false reputation of invulnerability by the time of his fight with Barrera. As one Boxing reviewer wrote, "He does everything wrong except lose". It was the view of many by this point that, regardless of the opponent presented, as long as that challenger weighed within 10lb, he would simply and inevitably lose; any measure of success 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 ultimately been 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 him down and lasting 12 rounds; they attributed this both to Hamed's own declining qualities, i.e. dulling reflexes, worsening defence etc, and also to the slight changing of his style due to his new trainers Oscar Suarez and Emmanuel Steward.
It was in 2001, to the shock of the great majority of the Boxing community, and to the gratification of a smaller minority of experts and detractors, that Hamed suffered his first loss, being beaten comprehensively by Barrera, a champion of long standing, to lose the WBO's version of the Featherweight title.
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 re-styling of himself as The Fresh Prince, a nickname hinting 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 in the latter rounds. There was often speculation about Hamed making a return to the ring. In November 2005, Hamed announced he was considering the possibility of a return to the ring. 
Controversy outside the ring
On 2 May 2005 Hamed was involved in a 90-mph three-car collision at Ringinglow Road, Sheffield, while driving his £300,000 silver McLaren-Mercedes SLR. He was arrested on 3 May, released on bail and later charged at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 3 December.
On 31 March 2006 Hamed entered a plea of guilty, and was warned he could face jail by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court. The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Alan Goldsack, adjourned the case until 12 May to allow pre-sentence reports to be prepared. The court heard how the man in the car Hamed hit, later revealed as 38-year-old Anthony Burgin, who had attended a number of previous hearings, was unable to come to court because he was in hospital for further treatment. His wife Clare was also injured.
On 12 May the court heard in a sentencing hearing how Hamed had been anxious to impress businessman Asif Goro (aged 46), who was a passenger in the McLaren-Mercedes at the time of the crash. Hamed was showing what his car could do when he crossed a solid white line at a speed of at least 90 mph and crashed head-on into a Volkswagen Golf that emerged from a dip in the road. Hamed's car then hit a second vehicle, the Ford Mondeo he had been trying to overtake. Mr. Burgin, the driver of the Volkswagen Golf, was very seriously injured, breaking every major bone in his body and suffering bruising to the brain. Hamed escaped unhurt.
Hamed was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing. He was also given a four-year driving ban. Judge Alan Goldsack, told Hamed: "I find it astonishing that the DVLA has not been prepared to co-operate with the prosecution to give them details of your earlier offences - apparently on human rights grounds." The DVLA's decision led to Hamed being sentenced without the judge being told he had previously been banned for a year for driving a Porsche at 110mph on the M1 in Derbyshire. It was also revealed that Hamed had three other previous convictions for speeding offences, details of which the prosecution had to find from court records.
Hamed was granted an early release and left prison on 4 September 2006 after serving 16 weeks of the 15 month sentence. Hamed was placed under Home Detention Curfew for the remainder of his sentence, and monitored by an electronic tag. Anthony Burgin, the driver whom Hamed collided with, said: "I am shocked that after such a serious accident Mr Hamed has been released after less than four months." Nevertheless, the appointment of Hamed to be a "Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" (otherwise known as an MBE) was annulled as a consequence of the convication.
There was also a civil court case rumoured to cost Hamed up to £1 million plus legal costs, as Burgin was deemed unable ever to work again.
Burgin was later arrested and charged with dangerous driving for an incident alleged to have involved Eleasha Hamed (the wife of Naseem) on April 19, 2007. Burgin pled not guilty, and appeared in court on March 17, 2008, following which he was cleared of charges.
Legacy and impact
As popular lower weight fighters like Oscar de la Hoya and Kostya Tszyu moved into the mid-weight classes and the Mexican champion Julio César Chávez declined, Hamed and Arturo Gatti filled the void. Hamed's power made him the new poster-boy for lighter-weight boxers and his charisma attracted a large number of fans. Hamed has also been referenced by the rapper Nas in the song "You Won't See Me Tonight", with the lyrics "I can't forget how I met you//you thought I was a boxer//Prince Naseem but I'm a mobster, Nas from Queens". Hamed himself recorded a song with hip hop group Kaliphz called "Walk Like A Champion", which reached number 23 in the UK Singles Chart in 1996.
Former fighters and boxing purists also question any right he has to greatness. Following the loss to Barrera he failed to take advantage of a return clause in the fight contract. It is argued that for a fighter to be considered great he must at least try to hunt down those who have beaten him to obtain a rematch. Fighters such as Thomas Hearns chasing down Ray Leonard, Shane Mosley chasing down both Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, and also Lennox Lewis ensuring that Hasim Rahman and Oliver McCall gave rematches immediately are examples of behaviour befitting a fighter who believes he is still the best. Following the loss to Barrera, Hamed, his confidence apparently shattered since he didn't want to fight Barrera on a rematch, he faded from view. Respected British boxing pundit Steve Bunce stated on the March 15, 2008 edition of BBC panel show Fighting Talk that Hamed was the greatest British boxer of all time, in his opinion.