Hamed 25 years on: promos & posters
Luke G. Williams
During the 1990s and early '00s, Naseem Hamed was a media sensation, his image appearing on fight posters, in VHS videos and on iconic TV shows. Luke G. Williams takes a trip down memory lane to bring you some of the many and varied ways in which the 'Prince' was promoted...
July 1995: fight poster vs Juan Polo Perez:
With a headline that riffs on pop-star Prince's 1993 decision to renounce his name in favour of a symbol (which in turn led the media to dub him "the artist formerly known as Prince"), this classic poster features Hamed's characteristic leopard-skin print and cocksure pose, as well as no mention of his opponent's name. Hamed was not yet a world champion, but he was already a recognisable headliner.
1995 video release: Natural Born Thriller:
This was the pre-DVD age when anybody who was anybody was on VHS. Such was Hamed's growing fame that he had his own compilation video before he had even fought for a world title. Predominantly bought in shops such as HMV and Virgin Megastore, as although Amazon existed it was yet to become part of the British cultural landscape.
1995 fight programme vs Steve Robinson:
As well as being the pre-social media age, 1995 also seems to be an age when UK fight posters and programme covers were designed by people with only a very rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop. Still, the headline contains a neat reference to the Severn Bridge / Allied operations in World War 2.
1996 fight poster vs Said Lawal:
Despite the relatively unsophisticated design, this fight poster is still one of the better early Naz efforts - hijacking James Bond iconography in a pretty cool way, albeit probably infringing on copyright of the 'Bond gunbarrel'. Not sure Hamed would have made a great 007 in truth ... after all this fight lasted only 35 seconds, less than a Bond pre-titles sequence.
1996 video release: Licence to Thrill
Continuing the Bond theme, but with the possible copyright infringing iconography removed, Hamed's second VHS release had them flocking back to HMV and covered his world championship career up to and including the Lawal mismatch.
1996 fight programme vs Remigio Molina:
Where to begin with this one? A design for a triple world-title fight card in Manchester that manages to be both staggeringly inept and also deeply disturbing. At least Steve Collins and Nigel Benn share some of the horror here - Ronald Wright and Ensley Bingham must have been relieved they didn't make it to the front cover. Thankfully, better things were just around the corner for Naz image-wise...
1997 Adidas promo: 'Here on business"
Now this is more like it - Adidas first linked up with the Prince in 1996 with a highly successful "Leopard changes his spots...to three stripes" campaign, in which the Adidas stripes were incorporated into his iconic leopard-print fight shorts. Ahead of this American debut this superb and still striking ad aired around the world, debuting in January 1997 during an ad break during Chris Evans' iconic 90s UK TV show TFI Friday.
A press release at the time described the ad thus:
"Naseem Hamed, the WBO World Featherweight Boxing Champion, kicks off his bid to become an American boxing legend in an edgy new commercial for Adidas which breaks in the UK this Friday. The 60- and 30-second films by Leagas Delaney are the first piece of TV advertising to link ’Prince’ Naseem with Adidas. Late last year, the UK boxer signed a ten-fight sponsorship deal with the sportswear giant. ’Assassin’ is shot in black and white in a jerky reportage style. It opens with a view of a New York skyscraper. On its stark roof stands a dreadlocked prophet-of-doom, waving his arms wildly. Captured by a helicopter news camera, the man is filmed shrieking out a warning to the citizens of New York about the arrival of a great prince who will force people to fall before him. He shouts: ’You will salute him. You will fall before him. You will listen to what he has to say. He will not be defeated. Hear the wise man, America!’ The prophet’s words are intersected with shots of Naseem in action in the gym. We also see him packing his bag on board a giant ship, then striding up to the deck in a determined manner. In keeping with the dark, aggressive mood of the film, Naseem eschews the gangplank, preferring to somersault from the ship’s railings on to the dock where he is picked up in an unmarked black limousine. At that moment, the prophet screams: ’You’re too late, he’s already here. He is here!’ The endline reads: ’Prince Naseem. Here on business."
It's a great promo and still goosebump-inducing for Hamed fans.
February 1997 TV appearance: TFI Friday:
The aforementioned TFI Friday was a staple of Channel 4's edgy 'yoof' oriented programming in the 90s, and as such youth icon Hamed was a no-brainer to appear. Here he appears on the show days after defeating Tom Johnson to unify the WBO and IBF titles, displaying his customary confidence but also a neat line in deadpan comedy during the actually quite funny intro sequence.
1997 fight poster vs Kevin Kelley:
Now that Hamed was being built into a transatlantic star his fight posters underwent a dramatic improvement in quality, with the 'flaming glove' iconography that would feature in many of his future designs here aired for the first time. Kevin Kelley's name gets on the poster but not his face - the implication is clear - this is the Hamed show!
1998 fight poster vs McCullough:
Before and after the McCullough promotion Hamed's relationships with Frank Warren and Brendan Ingle unravelled, as did his relationship and standing among certain members of the UK press. His performance vs the Northern Irishman was disappointing, but the poster remains utterly iconic.
1998 ring entrance vs McCullough:
Hamed's increasingly extravagant ring entrances had always been a large part of his appeal and fascination. This effort vs McCullough proved a hard sell though, with many maintaining it was somewhat tasteless. Judge for yourselves.
1998 HBO video intro for McCullough fight: Hamed and Chris Rock:
Hamed's status as a crossover star is demonstrated in this video by HBO in which they teamed him up with their comedy icon Chris Rock. Somewhat surreal viewed nearly 20 years later.
1999 fight poster vs Cesar Soto:
My favourite piece of Hamed artwork - this promo eschews the usual flamed-gloves for anvils instead and in the process makes Naz look like some kind of Marvel superhero.
2001 fight poster vs Marco Antonio Barrera:
More flamed gloves, but this time, in an apt piece of symbolism, Hamed's opponent receives equal image space. In the event it was Hamed and his reputation that got burned. We didn't know it at the time but his career was about to fizzle out.
2001 TV documentary: Little Prince Big Fight:
If you're a Hamed fan look away now - this documentary lays bare the reasons for Hamed's decline, chief among them rampant complacency. While Barrera trains in the mountains, Hamed gets golf lessons in the sun and orders goatskin gloves.
2015 IBHOF programme:
After several snubs, Hamed was finally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2015. To this writer's mind it was the right decision - the Prince was pure box office and pure entertainment. His career may not have lasted as long as we would have liked, but it was quite a ride.