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Boxing: Hamed turns to legend Steward

IF OSCAR SUAREZ feels secure then his self-confidence must match that of Naseem Hamed. But the obscure Puerto Rican trainer must fear, if only in private, for his future with Team Hamed now that the Detroit legend, Emanuel Steward, will be sharing his debut in the Prince's corner in Manchester on Saturday night.

Steward, in town with Thomas Hearns, has trained 27 world champions including Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya. He is currently the top gun-for-hire in boxing training, a man generally brought in when there is a problem.

Suarez was the surprise choice to fill the vacancy created by the breakdown in relations between Hamed and the man who had trained him since childhood, Brendan Ingle. The New Jersey-based Suarez has little substantiated track record.

Steve Lott, part of the management behind the US-based Arab Omar Sheika, had trouble recalling Suarez. "He may have been Sheika's cut man," Lott offered. "He was with Sheika when Sheika was good," claimed Nabeel Hamed, brother of the Prince. Remembering that is problematical, also.

Hamed was openly impressed by the one-to-one fitness training of Dominic Ingle, son of Brendan, as he prepared to fight Wayne McCullough last Halloween. He has made similarly flattering comments regarding Suarez. However, Hamed's performance against McCullough was criticised.

Steward was taken on to mastermind Holyfield's rematch win against Riddick Bowe in 1993. And it was Steward who was employed by the Lewis camp following the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion's loss to Oliver McCall in 1994, Steward having trained McCall for that fight.

Whether Steward stays with Hamed remains to be seen. But the legendary trainer will come at a high price, at least the equivalent of the pounds 75,000 which was "too expensive" for Ingle's services. Suarez's fee will be far more competitive. But you get what you pay for.