Boxing: Hamed tones down his act

PRINCE NASEEM HAMED, the WBO featherweight champion, has stepped in to tone down his macabre ring entrance in his title defence against Ireland's Wayne McCullough at the Boardwalk Convention Centre in Atlantic City in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, Hamed was due to walk through 11 gravestones that originally bore the names of his previous title victims. But he took one look at the pounds 70,000 assembly of props and insisted that the names be taken off - along with another showing 31 October.

The dangerous sport of boxing needs no such monument, especially with Liverpool's Richie Wenton on the bill. Bradley Stone died after fighting Wenton in a British title bout in London in 1994.

The "set" was devised by Hamed's cable network paymasters Home Box Office. HBO's senior vice-president, Lo DiBella, said: "Halloween is a fun thing in America, and that is the way we are looking at it. But we understand the sensitivity on the other side of the Atlantic."

Hamed weighed in at a pound under the nine-stone limit for his clash with McCullough, while the Irishman scaled 8st 12lb.

Meanwhile Wenton, the Liverpool southpaw, faces a huge task against the poker-faced Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera in the clash for the vacant WBO super-bantamweight title.

Official challenger Wenton is taking inspiration from Barrera's back- to-back defeats by Junior Jones, the first of which cost him the same title, and is eyeing up a possible fight with Hamed as reward.

"I feel I can cause an upset. All I have to do is what Jones did, box him for 12 rounds," he said. If Wenton upsets the odds, it will rate as one of British boxing's most notable modern-day achievements.

Hamed's ego intact, Ken Jones, page 28