Hamed right on target

Princely sum awaits as explosive second-round knock-out brings a world title shot closer
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NASEEM HAMED's inevitable coronation as world super- bantamweight champion (choose your own set of initials) moved a step closer last night when he demolished yet another from the Mexican "tough opponent" production line, Enrique Angeles, in two rounds at the West of England Showgrounds, Shepton Mallet.

It was Hamed's fourth defence of the WBC International championship, a second division bauble intended for boxers ranked between 10 and 30. Since the Sheffield 21-year-old clearly belongs in the top three, Hamed against virtually anybody will, almost by definition, produce the kind of mis-match which saw the unfortunate Angeles floored for the first time in his 31-fight career.

The Mexican had been stopped only once before, on cuts, but like all of Hamed's 17 previous opponents he found himself hopelessly bewildered by the range, variety, power and unpredictability of the Sheffield boxer's punches.

The self-styled Prince is an instinctive performer, a genius who operates beyond the limits of boxing orthodoxy. Even those who were initially repelled by his extravagance must now concede grudgingly that here is a truly remarkable and original talent. The young Muhammad Ali had the same problems when he defied conventional wisdom with his own innovative approach 35 years ago, and he had to beat the fearsome Sonny Liston twice before people took him seriously.

Hamed has achieved that acceptance in just 18 fights, though it remains to be seen how his abrupt removal from terrestrial screens at a time when his Saturday night appearances on ITV were attracting more than 10 million viewers, will affect his public profile and his potential to carve himself a niche beyond boxing. But at least he is being well paid for the switch to Sky Sports; last night's little exercise was the first in an eight- fight package with promoter Frank Warren which guarantees the youngster of Yemeni stock multi-millionaire status by the time he is 22 years old.

He earned the first instalment with a minimum of inconvenience, and in the process delighted the West Country fans with his showmanship and tongue- in-cheek posturing. They had been reared on the kind of relentless, no- frills fighting personified by Chris Sanigar and now best represented by Sanigar's protege, Ross Hale, who retained his commonwealth light-welterweight title on the undercard by stopping Birmingham's Sean Cogan in four gory rounds.

The Glasgow boxing public have similar tastes, yet they too were wooed and won over by Hamed's eccentric brilliance as, like an old time music- hall performer, he sets himself the challenge of playing the hardest halls in the land. What's next - the Kings Hall, Belfast against Wayne McCullough? Boxing's politics will probably ensure that they never meet, but we can always daydream.

It took him only 3min, 55 sec to dispose of Angeles, battering him throughout the opening round with stunning right hands which would have crushed a less determined opponent than the rugged Mexican. Angeles finished the round with a cut in the corner of his left eye and was reeling again at the start of the second round by another right hook.

Hamed stared at the Mexican's feet before landing a jab flush in his face and then a right and a following left put Angeles down. He got to one knee but opted to stay there as referee Larry O'Connell completed the count out.Wilfredo Vasquez, the veteran WBA champion who is Hamed's next target, may well go the same way. The Prince really is that good.

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