“Prince” Naseem Hamed – Hall of Fame Worthy?

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By: Steve Gallegos

This past weekend in London, over 18,000 fans packed the ExCel Arena to watch Tyson Fury take on Dereck Chisora. One of those fans on hand to watch the event was former featherweight kingpin “PrinceNaseem Hamed. In between rounds of one of the bouts, we caught an glimpse of Hamed via the TV cameras. “Naz” looked to be a shell of his former self as he has put on a significant amount of weight over the years; however he still sported that same smile he had when he ruled the 126 lb division for the latter half of the 1990’s.

Every couple of years the discussion arises about whether Hamed should be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY. “Naz” left behind a legacy of dominance and showmanship and many believe it was a legacy uncompleted. Many fans remember Hamed for his arrogance and felt he was a fraud instead of a legitimate champion. We are going to focus why “Naz” is Hall of Fame worthy and as well as giving this man some shine that he deserves.

Hamed set the standard for flashy ring entrances as his entrances were a mix of smoke, lights, music and dancing. He always had a new trick up his sleeve, whether it was being brought out on a magic carpet or coming into the ring in a Chevy Impala Convertible. His entrances were lengthy and most times it would frustrate his opponent, allowing “Naz” to get inside of their head. Almost each and every ring entrance was topped off by a front sommersault over the top rope into the ring. He was also great at hyping up a fight and he knew how to get inside of his opponent’s head by belittling them during press conferences and telling them that he was going to knock them out, most of the time making good on his promises.

Inside the ring, he was a master showman. He was a very unorthodox southpaw who held his hands low and threw punches from the most akward angles. He had tremendous power in either hand as he scored sensational knockouts. Hamed was never in a bad fight and even though he tasted the canvas on many occasions, he would always rise to his feet and knock his opponent out. (Ie; his sensational knockout win over Kevin Kelley in which both fighters scored three knockdowns each.) He was a major draw no matter where he fought and he would pack huge arenas in the UK as well as the U.S.

He also helped put the featherweight division on the map in the 90’s and would win three world titles en-route to earning million dollar paydays, which were unheard of for a featherweight. He won and defended his WBO featherweight title 16 times and was one of the sport’s first “Super” champions. Many believe he didn’t fight anybody good, however his resume of opponents is not bad. He beat top notch world champions such as Manuel Medina, Tom Johnson, Kevin Kelley, Wilfredo Vazquez, Wayne McCullough, Paul Ingle, Cesar Soto and Vuyani Bungu.

His record as a professional was 36-1 with 31 KO’s and his only loss came against the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera. So the question remains. Is “PrinceNaseem Hamed Hall of Fame worthy? Based on his accomplishments and the legacy he created, the answer is “Yes”. Love him or hate him, you have to respect what he has accomplished and the good he did for the sport of boxing. There wasn’t another fighter like him and he is a fighter that many of us wish was still around.

Forgotten Legends- Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson

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By: Steve Gallegos

There have been many fighters over the years that haven’t received the respect they deserved and that definitely is the case with former featherweight champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson.

“Boom Boom” was a hard-nosed, blue collar type of fighter who always showed up in top shape and ready to fight anytime he stepped into the ring. He was willing to take on all comers and during the 1st few years of his career, he fought 6-7 times a year facing all types of styles in the ring.
He was a very durable, versatile technician who adapted very well to his opponent’s style on the fly. He would go 26-1-1 from 1986-1991 before challenging IBF featherweight champion Manuel Medina in November, 1991. It was a good close fight that ended up going to the scorecards due to a cut caused by an accidental headbutt. Johnson would lose a technical decision; however it didn’t shake his confidence one bit as he was back in the ring only 2 months later.

In February, 1993, after winning his next 4 fights, he would face Medina again in a rematch and would pull out a close split decision earning him the IBF featherweight championship. He would then defend his title 10 times over the next 4 years fighting all over the world.

In early 1997, he would face fellow titleholder “Prince” Naseem Hamed in Hamed’s home country of Great Britain. He would lose on an 8th round TKO, ending an 18 fight win streak. He would never again challenge for a world title and would go 7-7 from 1997-2002.

In 1999 he did have one more fight in the spotlight when he faced former two-time featherweight champion Junior Jones in a battle of former champions meeting at the crossroads. The fight was nationally televised on TNT’s short-lived boxing series, “Title Night”. While Jones did dominate the early rounds with his crisp boxing, Johnson was able to take Jones out of his rhythm late in the fight, turning the fight into a slugfest in which “Boom Boom” was able to get the better of Jones in many exchanges. He would lose a 12 round unanimous decision.

He retired in 2002 with a record of 51-10-2 with 28 KO’s. He never seemed to get the due that he so richly deserved. An honest, hardworking gentleman who gave everything he got whenever he stepped into that squared circle. He isn’t in the Hall of Fame as of yet and he definitely deserves to have his spot in Canastota alongside all the other greats. Until then, he remains an underrated, unsung hero of the prize ring. Wherever he is, we would like for him to know that he is not forgotten.

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Photo Courtesy of: http://www.champsuk.com/search/

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