Hamed's hammer blow

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The Independent Online
NASEEM HAMED continued his seemingly irresistible rise to a world title by halting Sergio Liendo of Argentina in the second round of a defence of his WBC super-bantamweight title here last night. Liendo, Hamed's predecessor as champion and the WBC's eighth-ranked contender for the world title, was floored twice and beaten inside the distance for the first time in 51 fights.

Thankfully, after last week's tragedy involving Gerald McClellan, the 25-year-old challenger recovered quickly and left the ring unaided. No doubt someone, somewhere will write lurid lines about how the fight game held its collective breath in fear of a repetition of last Saturday's catastrophe, but boxing does not work that way. Without wishing to appear callously dismissive of McClellan's plight, his fate would not have weighed heavily on the minds of either of last night's contestants, any more than an airline passenger would worry about flying because a plane had gone down that week.

Calamities like that which befell the unfortunate American are extremely rare: WBC president Jos Sulaiman pointed out that McClellan's was the first serious injury to occur in the last 805 contests conducted under WBC auspices, and that is a record which many other sports might envy. The leading voice in the abolitionist lobby last week was MP and former neurosurgeon Sam Galbraith, who lists mountain-walking as his hobby - yet last week the Scottish Highlands claimed their 12th fatality of the year.

The self-styled "Prince" Hamed, 21, is the masterwork of the sometimes eccentric Sheffield trainer Brendan Ingle, many of whose protgs have put too much emphasis on the second part of Ingle's definition of boxing as "hitting without getting hit". Hamed, who has been with Ingle for 14 years, prefers the emphasis on the first part, and as he continues to accumulate victories in such devastating style it becomes increasingly difficult to think of any super- bantamweight who could pose him a serious threat. WBA champion Wilfredo Vargas is the immediate target, and Hamed's promoter Frank Warren says he is close to clinching a deal with the 33-year-old Puerto Rican to defend against Hamed in Britain this summer.

If Vargas views a tape of last nigh's performance, Warren may find himself having to dig a little deeper into the wallet. Hamed was punch-perfect, and the left hook which dropped the Argentine for the first time some 20 seconds into the second round was probably the best punch of his unbeaten 17-fight career. Belgian referee Daniel Van Der Wiele should have stopped the fight as soon as Liende rose before a count could even be taken up, since the challenger was obviously badly dazed.

Instead, Hamed stepped in with a following right and Liendo's head cracked off the canvas as he went down. There was no possibility of his beating the count, and the finish was immediately signalled to allow Liendo to be treated in the ring.