`Prince' plans for time of his life

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The Independent Online


reports from Glasgow

It is "Prince" Naseem Hamed's custom to predict the round and minute in which his opponent will succumb. If the shenanigans in Glasgow on Saturday are a yardstick for the future, he may need the assistance of the sort of sophisticated instruments used to judge athletics sprinting events.

The official time of what transparently did not equate to a world title contest against the Austrian-based Nigerian Said Lawal was 35 seconds. This is a record for a bout at such a level, beating by 10 seconds Lloyd Honeyghan's welterweight defence against Gene Hatcher nine years ago, although the Prince from Sheffield had retained his World Organisation featherweight championship at least three top-class 100 metres races before that.

"I apologised to the fans," he said, "but it was always going to be an early night anyway. The Scottish public are a great public. They appreciate boxing so much and I'll be back here."

The way he talked, however, extravagantly backed by his wise, engaging trainer, Brendan Ingle, suggested that many swift night shifts and apologies lie ahead. Naseem intends to have three more fights this year, each planned to give him a different title at a different weight, each to be accompanied by his thrillingly cavalier, yet precise style.

"In my eyes, I just can't be beaten," he said, having registered his 21st successive victory. "To tell you the truth, I don't know what shots I threw out there. I just know they were wicked."

There were three in all. The first was delivered as he swaggered to the centre of the ring at the first bell burgeoning with arrogance and self- possession - "a great shot," Naseem said. A straight right it knocked an already perplexed challenger shatteringly to the floor. The second punch, also, tellingly, a right, did not have quite such a withering effect but the third an uppercut from the same hand persuaded the referee he had seen enough.

The crowd were swift to disagree and their anger, which never went beyond disgruntled chanting, was justified. Not so much as a rolled-up programme rained down, which, at a fiver a time, was equally understandable.

They had come to pay homage at the court of the Prince, but they would have preferred it had there been a hint more rebellion from the under- prepared man who would usurp the throne, say the throwing of a single punch.

Naseem was delighted that he had inflicted the damage with his right hand, an injury to which had forced two defences to be postponed. "What I read was that my career was on the ropes. I wanted to prove something," he said.

Ingle said he was good enough to win titles in every division from bantam to middleweight. "If he wanted to box Steve Collins [super-middleweight] in a 20-foot ring, Collins wouldn't hit him with a handful of rice." Nobody disagreed. They were already thinking of investing in electronic stopwatches.