Boxing: Hamed signs pounds 26m deal with Warren

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The Independent Online
There seems no limit to Naseem Hamed's earning power. Britain's highest-paid sportsman, can bank around pounds 26m from a new deal struck with promoter Frank Warren.

The World Boxing Organisation featherweight champion has signed for another 10 fights under the Warren banner, with a new contract which starts in September.

Warren said: "He earned more than WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis last year and his endorsements in the Middle East are unbelievable." Hamed's name appears there on orange juice, milk cartons and postage stamps among other items.

It is no wonder Warren does not flinch when he reveals that his Madison Square Garden venture, in which Hamed defends his WBO title against the New Yorker Kevin Kelley on Friday, is costing $10m (around pounds 6.7m) to set up.

Big American names on Hamed's agenda for 1998 are the WBO super-bantamweight champion Junior Jones - Warren has a contract for that fight to take place in London during Wimbledon fortnight - and the International Boxing Federation super-featherweight champion Arturo Gatti, from Montreal. A Gatti fight would be at super-featherweight (9st 4lb), a division higher for Hamed.

Breaking with traditional pre-fight preparation, Hamed went to play pool until 2am on Sunday. And he says he stays up until the early hours watching videos of his heros like Muhammad Ali. With 28 successive wins, 26 inside schedule, Hamed does not see the need to conform.

"I'm enjoying myself. I've done a bit of shopping in New York, played a bit of pool and now I'll spank the Yank," said Hamed.

"I'm here to knock someone out - Kelley will be the one - and make Britain and the Arab world proud. I guarantee it.

"I predict the round in which I'll win, but it doesn't put pressure on me. I won't go out all tensed up. I'll beat someone up. Pain must come with it, and Kelley will feel some. He'll take some serious shots.

"I've not come to New York to dance around and win on points. I've something to prove to the Americans who say I'm a flash in the pan. I'm looking for a full, clean collision - me hitting him, and him hitting the canvas."

Kelley has not been seen in his home city since Hamed arrived in a personal party which will swell to nearly 30 when his family arrive in force before his date at the Garden.

The former World Boxing Council champion may be more than a shade put out by the fact that Hamed is making all the pre-fight noise on his own patch. Kelley said: "You need to give him a beating. He needs it. The first round I'm going straight for his mouth. I've been saving everything up for the bell.

"I think they are jumping the gun with this guy. They are putting too much interest in a guy no one knows and who is not from this city and is not even from this country.

"When I fight, I fight with everything that's in me. I'm going to hit him with everything that I've ever been hit with. When the bell rings he's going to see me and know that I'm out to hurt him."

Hamed claimed that Kelley "has realised it will be his last fight... He will just turn up and give it what he's got. He's been world champion and been there before. He's no novice."

Hamed is hoping that Muhammad Ali will come to watch the fight and insists his comments were taken out of context when he was reported as saying he would go down in history as a better fighter than "The Greatest".

"I'm hoping more than anything that he's there," Hamed said. "The guy's my idol, my inspiration.

"If they ask me who is best between us, I must give my opinion. All I said was I can box five different ways. I wasn't saying I was better than him. He's a living legend."

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