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BOXING: Hamed delayed by visa mix-up

BROADWAY AND the Boardwalk had to get on without Naseem Hamed yesterday after a visa mix-up left him in London. Instead of the Prince lording it before the American media, the World Boxing Organisation featherweight champion was trying to punch his way through red tape at the United States Embassy.

Problems with documentation have held up Hamed's departure to Atlantic City for his Halloween title defence against Ireland's Wayne McCullough at the Convention Center on Saturday. But it was hoped the official paperwork will be completed in time for Hamed to catch a flight tonight.

It was hardly the inconvenience Hamed needed in the countdown to the 11th defence of his title. But while Hamed's journey stopped 3,000 miles short of its destination, the champion's preparations have gone into overdrive. Hamed has been reporting for training at 7am at Brendan Ingle's sweatshop gymnasium in Wincobank, Sheffield, in readiness for his first defence for six months.

Ingle's sons, John and Dominic, have been preparing Hamed in training while Hamed's brothers, Riath and Nabeel, are running the champion's affairs, leaving the voluble Ingle on the outside of the operation.

Ingle, though, still likes what he sees in Hamed the fighting man. He said: "He needed 12 rounds the other night, and he looked as sharp as a razor. The velocity in his blows hitting the bag was fantastic. He was hitting it so hard he was shaking the rafters. If he hits McCullough like that he could break his jaw or his nose. That's what I'm watching: what he's doing. McCullough will come to fight, there will be a lot of support for him from Ireland. But the Naz fellow is vicious in the ring, doesn't take any prisoners.

"At the moment he's listening intently to everything Dominic is saying to him. That pleases me because Dominic and John have got great heads on their shoulders. I think he can go on to greatness the way he's listening and working now. Over the last four years he's been on a suicide run, but I think it's behind him now."