I am going to buck my own trend here today and take a break from writing about tennis which has dominated my own channel since Scorum launched to talk about another great passion of mine - fighting.
As a kid growing up in the early 90's I would stay up late to watch boxing fights on pay per view Sky Sports. This was the period where satellite and cable TV came across from American to Britain and boxing flourished providing a whole new crowd of armchair enthusiasts to the sport who watched some talented Brit's emerge as champions on their TV screens. There were plenty of choose from - Lennox Lewis, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Joe Calzaghe to name a few.
But my favourite of them all was Prince Naseem Hamed, he was the star of the show in and outside the ring. He pulled in the crowds both at the venues he fought in and at home where millions of armchair TV fans would watch in disbelief at how outrageously he boxed in the ring and acted outside of it. He was a showman with quick hands and feet, enjoyed dancing around the ring and taunting his opponents flying in the face of British boxing etiquette of manners in which fighters would usually behave.
There's Definitely Method in the Madness!
Hamed produced an unorthodox never seen before and never to be seen again style of boxing that to this very day still captures the imagination of fans the world over. He undoubtedly showed that boxing and fighting is more than applying just a particular style your taught and trained in by a coach, it's about having a talent that some fighters naturally possess and others simply do not.
Hamed was a South Paw - notoriously difficult for orthodox boxers to deal with. But Naseem was unorthodox not just because he was a South Paw, but his fighting style was totally unique in addition to his stance.
What is a South Paw?
For those that don't know what a South Paw boxer is, I won't get into the complexities of it too much, but in general it's a boxer who is strongest with their left hand so has their right foot forward, leading with a right hand jab (as this is their weaker hand) and throwing a cross with their stronger left arm. This stance mirrors the more common orthodox stance where most boxers have their left foot forward because their strongest hand is their right which is kept back for a strong right cross. Though there are some right handed boxers that adopt a south paw stance for strategic reasons and vice versa!
The Best Featherweight Boxer Britain Has Ever Been Blessed With
Prince Naseem is considered the best featherweight British boxer of all time and with good reason too. Not only was his career end record simply stunning but his style of fighting caught the attention and imagination of many boxing fans around the world, not just in Britain.
He is probably the most unconventional British boxer of all time, not just in his weight category, and his short hand power for his weight category was truly awe inspiring.
With such a larger than life character in and outside the ring there's so much I can say about Prince Naseem but I'm just going to focus on his record and his most the fight that made him a household name.
Naseem's end record was 35 wins and one loss, 31 of them coming by way of knock out and 5 by points. This record alone speaks for his explosive power and direct style of fighting - he would not mess about in the ring for long or be conservative in any shape or form with his approach, he'd go for the knockout as quickly as possible setting aside the odd taunting of his opponent. Standing at only 5ft 4 inches it's hard to fathom how this guy could hit so hard, he had great technique with his punches and was capable of delivering power from short range and a low guard.
Described as one of the Most Promising Boxer's of His Time
His promoter Frank Warren who has also represented British boxing greats Nigel Benn, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan summed up his career when he said:
He was the most exciting fighter that I'd ever been involved with. At one stage, in the early part of his career, he could have gone on to become one of the great fighters. But that disappeared when he didn't fight as regularly as he should have done, when he was cutting corners on his training. It just didn't work out for him from that point on.
Naseem could have been one of Britain's biggest boxing legends of all time but his dislike for the long tough training regimes that boxers have to endure to keep in shape and the long periods away from his family saw to his downfall in the sport eventually before he really fulfilled his true potential.
The Steve Robinson Fight that Crowned Him King of the Ring: Becomes Britain's Youngest Ever Boxing Champion
In 1995 and at the tender age of just 21 years old, Prince Naseem became the youngest ever Brit to win a World Championship Belt when he beat Steve Robinson at the Cardiff Arms Park, Wales. It was in Robinson's own back yard that the 'dancer and prancer' of the ring stunned Robinson's home crowd silencing many sceptics at the same time who thought Naseem's unconventional style would be his undoing against a solid boxer like Robinson.
Up until that point many had argued that Naseem's opponents were mostly average fighters with dubious records. They had a point, out of the 19 he had fought before (18 of which by knockout) perhaps 4 or 5 represented above average challenges but none were champions. Robinson who was coming off an 8 win streak had never been stopped in a fight before and had only lost on points.
The Prince throws Caution to the Wind
Any thoughts that Naseem would abandon his style or at least tone it down and adopt a more cautious approach against Robinson were put to bed from the moment the bell rang. Naseem continued with his dance, prance, bob and weave style against Robinson. It was quiet an extraordinary sight to behold even for regular watchers of Hamed because now he was coming up against a different calibre of opponent and he was still fighting guard completely down, dancing, talking to and teasing a champion and all the while out classing him in front of a hostile Welsh crowd. He seemed oblivious to the occasion and more focused on doing what he does best, bate and beat his opponents with style.
The early rounds of the fight saw Hamed dance around, stick his chin out and dare Robinson to try punch him, laugh at Robinson and do a shimmy. On a more serious note it also saw him land endless clean punches on Robinson with Robinson managing to take only one of the first four rounds on points. He was already being out boxed by a showman with some real punching prowess.
Fifth Round Robinson Buckles
It was only a matter of time before Hamed was going to really test the sturdiness of Robison's chin, he was already landing clean hits on the champ and in the fifth round he got his reward for being the brave direct fighter he was. Hamed caught Robinson with a hook, a cross and another hook and down like a sack of spud's he went for only the second time in his career.
That seemed to rattle Robinson and when he got back to his feet he immediately started to panic and close up even more getting boxed into a corner and peppered by Naseem. Both his eyes were swollen at this point and he literally looked like a dead man walking.
Round 7 Hamed Starts Making the Decisive Move
You could clearly see in Round 7 Hamed tasted blood and was gunning for the knockout on Robinson. He literally barraged him with countless upper cuts and hooks, one of which almost knocked the guard out of his mouth. Robinson's legs were giving way as he was stumbling round the ring in desperation, it was the round where it dawned upon many that the Champ was definitely going to loose this fight and probably for the first time by the way of stoppage or knockout. The bell couldn't come soon enough for Robinson but that would only prove a short bout of relief for the Welshman.
Round 8 Doesn't Last Long
It literally took a matter of seconds for the fight to be over in Round 8 much to the dismay and silence of the home fans. A left hook to Robinson and he wobbled before hitting the canvas. The referee interjected and stopped the fight crowning Hamed the new WBO featherweight champion!
In an interview before the fight Hamed had this to say:
"I'm the prince, I'm going to be king, make sure you're there for the coronation," Named declared before dishing out a one-sided beating with all the showmanship that would come to define his career."
Well he wasn't half right, Hamed produced a showboating performance, completely outclassing and foxing Robinson in every department, even defensively with such a low guard. Robinson's crab like defense served little good at neutralising Hamed's superior pace, power and punch technique, this was the night Prince Naseem Hamed crowned himself the king of British feather weight boxing.
This fight was Hamed at his best, showing his most potential for the future. He went on to enjoy another 16 more victories, most by knockout and only 1 defeat. In the next article covering this unique talent amongst British boxers I'll be covering his relationship with his coach, why he failed to live up to his potential and some of his crazy antics in and outside the ring.
Watch: Hamed Outclasses Robinson with an Outrageous Style of Boxing