1996: The shape of things to come

Boxing: Glory nights for Hamed and Bruno
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The Independent Online
It is hard to distinguish between the ring adventures of Naseem Hamed, Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn, but at the end of 1996 it is possible that just one of the trio will reign as a world champion.

Hamed was the star of 1995, Bruno managed to achieve the seemingly impossible, while Benn proved himself as one of the world's finest athletes when he survived the night of dreadful punches which left Gerald McClellan in a coma in February. Hamed is young enough to still be here this time next year.

There is a chance that Chris Eubank, the eccentric from Brighton who was twice exposed last year by the true grit of Dublin's Steve Collins, will announce that he is coming out of his recently announced retirement to try and earn some more money.

Bruno will get the chance to add extra millions to his bank balance when he travels to Las Vegas in March for a planned WBC world heavyweight title defence against Mike Tyson, who looks just a shadow of the wonderful boy who ruled the heavyweight division. Bruno believes he will win and there are plenty who will back him.

Benn is looking for just one more hard fight - not that he needs one - to say a final goodbye. There are negotiations for a unification contest against Collins, possibly in May.

Several British champions will hand back their titles and pursue world fame in the first half of the year and it is possible that during the second half, having failed, they will be pursuing their old domestic championships. Paul Ryan, Drew Docherty, Terry Dunstan and Neville Brown come to mind.

The glory in 1996, and possibly increasing controversy, will belong to Hamed. He really is the most outstanding talent. His first defence of his WBO featherweight title takes place on 10 February at the London Arena against the unbeaten Mexican, Arnulfo Castillo, and after that he may move up or down a weight but, one thing looks certain, he will be world boxing's most notable fighter of 1996.

PREDICTION: Bruno to be too big and determined for the new Tyson.