Vox Pop: After his disappointing victory last week, just how good is Naseem Hamed?
Sunday 18 April 1999
Talent you're born with, greatness you have to achieve. And I don't think Naz has earned the right to be called great yet. I think he's an exceptional talent, but he needs to fight top-class people. Through no fault of his own, the featherweight division - since he has come on the scene - has been pretty poor. He is without doubt the best featherweight in the world. But, if he wants to be a legend, he must look at the divisions above and below him, where there are some truly exceptional fighters.
SKY TV COMMENTATOR
For the time being greatness is out of the equation. We now have, after 30 fights, the complete jigsaw. He's got the speed, power and unorthodoxy to take out anyone, but his defence and stamina are looking suspect - that makes him vulnerable. Last Saturday against Paul Ingle he was impressive for eight rounds and then, suddenly, he struggled. He generates enormous electricity and excitement, but he really needs to beat the likes of Eric Morales or Floyd Mayweather if he is ever to be regarded as one of the greats.
I think he has to fight some better boxers - maybe one of the Mexicans. He's an awkward boy to sort out because he does very stupid things in the ring. He is so unorthodox, it is impossible to analyse his style. There is no question that he is a big puncher, though. And that often gets him out of trouble. I think he would have had a lot more trouble with the British fighters of my generation. Most of his opponents seem to be over the age of 30. If he is to be a great, he needs a real challenge.
I don't think he's destined to be an all-time great; a Sugar Ray Leonard, say. But he is a very good fighter - Britain's best-ever probably. His real test of greatness will be his longevity. The thing that makes him so exciting is his vulnerability. In Manchester he made Paul Ingle look like a little kid for eight rounds, but fell apart in the next two. That is very disturbing because it hadn't been that hard a fight until then. To his credit, though, he did bounce back and finish it in the 11th, which is the mark of a great.
The legend line has always been crap. I think he's a great featherweight by British standards. I think he's been at his peak and I wonder if he can get any better. Paul Ingle is a lively boxer, but he's hardly world- class. Yet he managed to get Naz into trouble. Just think what would happen if he fought real, quality opponents that can punch. Up until now, though, Naz has only been up against fighters who were on the decline. Honestly, with a week's notice, I could have fought some of those guys.
Naz has always had fantastic potential. But hype far outweighs validity. Legends are guys who stay around for a long time and go up and down divisions. In order for Naz to be a great, he needs to fight legitimate, live opponents who have a realistic chance of beating him. Some of his past performances have been great to watch, and he is a good hitter. But, as long as he persists in boxing with his unorthodox style - which often leaves him wide open - he will run the risk of losing.
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