Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Naz Says He Hasn’t Ruled Out a Comeback

Hamed faced Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001 and the Mexican handed the 'Prince' his first loss. A little over a year later, Hamed was gone from the sport.

On the ballot for the first time, ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed was recently shunned as an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Absent from the ring since 2002, Hamed is now little more than a boxing afterthought as he watches fellow Brit Amir Khan ready himself to face the challenge of Marco Antonio Barrera - the man that handed Hamed the first loss of his pro career and likely hastened his exit from the sport.

Now only a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday and nearly 50 pounds over his best fighting weight of 126 pounds, Hamed told this scribe that he has not ruled out a return to the ring and that watching Khan has energized him.

“I wouldn’t say I’m completely retired,” said Hamed who sounded excited at the possibility of one day returning to the ring. “I don’t see why I couldn’t come back if that’s what I decide to do.”

An electrifying performer, Hamed was a sensation in the late 1990’s and in the first couple years of this decade. The former WBO, IBF and WBC Featherweight titlist sold out stadiums from London to Las Vegas, scored sensational one-punch knockouts and entertained crowds with his colorful personality and entertaining ring entrances.

“I’ll never rule out a comeback to the ring,” said Hamed. “What you have to remember is that boxing will always be in my heart. I love the sport and I will always love the sport. So because of that, I will never tell you that I am retired. I trained hard for 21 years of my life and I punished myself for a long time, so I think I deserved to take some time off.”

After the humiliating loss to Barrera in April 2001, Hamed returned to outpoint Spain’s Manuel Calvo over 12 uninspiring rounds in May 2002. However, after that night Hamed simply stopped fighting, he strangely avoided the boxing spotlight and his career quietly faded to black.

There were numerous rumors over the years that Hamed’s comeback was imminent but none of the fights ever came to fruition.

In 2005, he crashed his McLaren-Mercedes into another motorist at high speed in an incident that nearly killed the other driver and also injured the man’s wife. In May 2006, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for dangerous driving and was released after serving less than a quarter of his time.

“It’s been a nice break,” said Hamed of the extended vacation from the sport that made him into a millionaire several times over. “Sure, it’s been a bit long, but I’m not retired right now. I may very well come back. You have to admit, nobody has ever done what I did in the history of boxing. I miss it, I love it.”

Hamed seemed intrigued with the announcement that the young Amir Khan will now face off against the man that managed to tear down his aura of invincibility.

“We’ve got a pretty good breath of fresh air in Amir Khan,” said a hopeful sounding Hamed of the Khan-Barrera match. “It’s good to see a Muslim brother like Amir doing his thing - and I think he’ll do it.”

January 2009

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