Hamed 25 years on: Remember when...? Part 2
Luke G. Williams
Boxing Monthly first hit newsagents in 1989 and, three years later, Prince Naseem Hamed made his professional debut. As such the Yemeni-Brit was one of the first domestic superstars whose career the magazine covered in its entirety. In our second stroll through the BM archives to see how the magazine covered Hamed's career, Luke G. Williams focuses on his appearances on the front cover...
Glyn Leach was certainly ahead of the game in placing Hamed on the magazine's cover when he was a mere 9-0 prospect - mind you, the longtime BM editor knew talent and star quality when he saw it. Andrew Harrison placed this classic edition third on his list of the magazine's all-time greatest covers and his explanation sums up its appeal and iconic status perfectly: "Photographer Chris Bevan’s cover shot of Hamed – visibly seething with the ambition that would eventually consume him – served as most people’s initial handshake with a mercurial nineteen-year-old who would help to define the 90s. Bevan’s pic personified the enfant terrible of British boxing: the leopard-skin shorts; the ‘I told you so’ glower and the first hint of a sneer flickering across his lips. Timeless."
Here we see Marco Antonio Barrera grinning widely - as though he knew all along how his rivalry with Hamed would play out. Back in 1996, a showdown between the 'Prince' and the 'Baby-Faced Assassin' looked a dead cert and couldn't have been more enticing. Hamed was the undefeated featherweight king, while Barrera had laid waste to the super bantam division. It wasn't to be, though - at least not for a few more years; Barrera was defeated twice in succession by Junior Jones and wouldn't end up facing Hamed until April 2001. By then, the Prince was but a shadow of his former self. Debate will rage for eternity about what might have happened if the duo had squared off in 1995 or 1996 - many maintain that Barrera always had Hamed's number, while others demur that the Prince in his pomp would have KO'd the Mexican. The truth? We'll never know.
BM eagerly previewed Hamed's big unification clash against Tom Johnson at the London Arena in this edition. Johnson, the longtime IBF feather king boasted an impressive 44-2-2 record but ultimately proved no match for the Prince, being TKO'd in eight. A few days short of his 23rd birthday, Hamed was now a unified world champion and the boxing world was at his feet. The copy of the magazine shown below belongs to BM writer Chris Williamson and was signed by none other than Hamed himself. Click here for the full story.
Hamed special supplement 1998:
BM's special extra Hamed supplement appeared after his triumph against Wilfredo Vazquez and prior to his ill-fated showdown with Wayne McCullough - as such it arguably captured Hamed (then 30-0) at the peak of his powers and reputation. Over 16 full-colour pages we are given a full review of Hamed's eleven WBO title fights - comprising his annexation of the title from Steve Robinson and ten successful defences - as well as accounts of his European bantam and WBC international super bantam title fights. Also included are a full page 'congratulations' page from Frank Warren's Sports Network and an ad playing tribute to the role of Warren and the Ingles in Hamed's rise. Within a few months all these relationships would be shattered beyond repair and Hamed's career would never be the same again.
Hamed's triumphal pose on the cover of the May 1999 issue was juxtaposed with a shot from his far harder than expected contest with Paul Ingle - when Hamed endured torrid ninth and tenth rounds before getting out of jail with a big left in round eleven. With a new team in his corner comprising Emmanuel Steward and Oscar Suarez, BM seemed unconvinced that the Prince was improving.
2000 pound for pound special supplement:
After shaky performances against Ingle and Cesar Soto, Hamed rebounded with a highly impressive fourth-round stoppage of Vuyani Bungu which brought his career record to 34-0 with 30 KOs and secured fourth place in BM's pound for pound rankings for 'Y2K' as the magazine put it. The only men above the Prince were Roy Jones Jr., Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley, while Oscar De La Hoya was fifth. Someone called Floyd Mayweather ranked sixth. Whatever happened to him?
Hamed's thrilling but flawed shoot-out with Augie Sanchez at Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, had BM wondering if the loss of Hamed's undefeated record was only a matter of time. "What if it were Marco Antonio Barrera hitting Naz with those left hooks?" pondered Steve Farhood in his ringside report of Hamed's four-round victory. In retrospect, highly prescient words.
A haunted looking Hamed stared out from the cover of this edition, which reviewed his unanimous points loss to Barrera in Las Vegas. Sadly for Hamed's many fans and admirers, the answer posed to the question "Too late for Naz to learn" was a resounding 'yes'. At just 27 his career was nearly over.
Hamed's comeback from the devastating Barrera loss - he was now billed as the 'Fresh Prince' - lasted just one fight, an unimpressive points victory against underwhelming Spaniard Manuel Calvo. Steve Farhood previewed the Calvo contest while also considering the difficulties that an outspoken and proud Muslim might face fighting in the United States post-9/11. "Hamed's loss to Barrera is an opportunity to establish a lasting greatness," Farhood observed. "After all, many top fighters are undefeated until their title reigns are unceremoniously terminated. It's how they rebound from adversity that separates the keepers from the disposable."