Hamed started boxing professionally at flyweight in 1992. He soon began rising through the ranks as he knocked out a series of opponents in the opening rounds. Age 20 he won the European bantamweight title, comprehensively beating the beleaguered Vincenzo Belcastro over twelve rounds. After one defence he won the WBC International super bantamweight title in 1994, overwhelming Freddy Cruz in Sheffield, whom he severely punished and stopped in six rounds. Hamed’s popularity grew, his unorthodox style winning a large fan base and his boxing antics generating a large group of detractors. After signing for Frank Warren, Hamed, employing more spectacular entrances, knocked out better opposition in Enrique Angeles and Juan Polo Pérez, both within two rounds.
World featherweight champion
Hamed vs. Robinson
Later in 1995, after controversially being named the WBO #1 featherweight contender (despite never having boxed at that weight), Hamed moved up to face Wales’ defending WBO champion Steve Robinson. After dominating the bout and scoring a knockdown in round 5, Hamed won the title when the referee stopped the fight in round 8 after Robinson was caught with a left hook that dropped him spectacularly. The fight was held in front of Robinson’s home crowd at the rugby ground, Cardiff Arms Park, with rain pouring down on the fighters and the ring. This was also the first bout where Hamed badly injured his hand, a problem that would continue for the rest of his career.
Hamed vs. Lawal
His first defence came against Austria based Nigerian, Said Lawal, who was instantly knocked down from Hamed’s first punch, then stopped in just 35 seconds after being effortlessly dropped again. This was the fastest world title fight ever held in Scotland, much to the displeasure of the crowd. Hamed’s second defence was against undefeated Puerto Rican Daniel Alicea. Televised in the United States by Showtime, Hamed was carried to the ring on a grand throne, something which Hamed later stated he was not comfortable with. After a fast, lively start from Alicea, Hamed suffered a surprising brief knockdown in round 1, the first of his career. However, Hamed won the fight in his favoured round 2 with two knockdowns, the second of which forced the referee to wave the fight off instantly.
Hamed vs. Medina
Hamed’s next defence was in Dublin against former two-time world featherweight title holder Manuel Medina. After knocking Medina down heavily in round 2, Hamed struggled to finish the fight until finally knocking Medina down twice in the 10th round. Finally, at the end of round 11, Medina’s corner withdrew him from the fight on the advice of the ringside doctor. Hamed revealed in his post-fight interview that he’d fought with a heavy cold. Medina would go on to have many more tough title fights, remarkably winning versions of the featherweight world title another three times. Hamed’s next opponent was the 27–0 Remigio Molina of Argentina, who was stopped in two rounds.
Hamed vs. Johnson
In February 1997, Hamed defeated long-time IBF champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson in eight rounds in a unification bout at the London Arena. After being constantly stunned and staggered from round 3 onwards, Johnson was finally dropped by a huge uppercut, then saved from further punishment by the referee. Hamed’s first defence of both the WBO & IBF titles was a first-round KO of veteran British boxer and European champion Billy Hardy. Before the bout Hamed had correctly predicted he would win in round 1. The next defence was an easy two round win against a hugely outclassed Juan Gerardo Carbrera. Due to boxing politics involving the IBF’s mandatory challenger, Hamed was soon forced to relinquish the IBF title.
Hamed vs. Badillo
In Hamed’s hometown of Sheffield in October 1997, he produced one of the best performances of his career in defending his WBO title against Jose Badillo, whose corner entered the ring to stop the fight during round 7.
Hamed vs. Kelley
Main article: Naseem Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley
In late 1997 Hamed made his heavily hyped U.S. debut. His ceremonious arrival on the British Airways Concorde was covered by multiple media outlets. There, he and former WBC title holder Kevin Kelley fought in a highly entertaining bout. This fight marks something of a watershed in Hamed’s career, as he was forced, for the first time, to abandon his hands-down style of fighting throughout the entire course of the bout, given the calibre of Kelley. Nonetheless, despite suffering three knockdowns himself, Hamed put Kelley down for a third and final time to win by a fourth-round knockout. This was his first of many fights on HBO.
Other title defences
In 1998, Hamed enjoyed victories over former three-time WBA title holder and then-lineal champion Wilfredo Vazquez (TKO 7), former WBC bantamweight title holder Wayne McCullough (W 12), and future IBF title holder Paul Ingle (TKO 11; no relation to Hamed’s then-former trainer Brendan Ingle).
Hamed vs. Soto
In October 1999 at Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States, Hamed defeated WBC featherweight champion Cesar Soto of Mexico over 12 rounds, adding the WBC title to his collection and unified the WBC & WBO titles. Hamed soon chose to relinquish his WBC title due to his commitment to being WBO champion.
Had Vazquez not been stripped by the WBA of his belt (the WBA did not want their featherweight title unified with the WBO), Hamed would have had the distinction of winning all four world titles in a division, something only Riddick Bowe had achieved by that point, at heavyweight.
Hamed vs. Bungu
In March 2000 at Olympia, Kensington, London, Hamed knocked out former undefeated long-reigning IBF super bantamweight title holder, Vuyani Bungu of South Africa. The fight was ended with a single straight left hand, in one of Hamed’s most impressive performances and biggest victories.
Hamed vs. Sanchez
Hamed successfully retained his WBO title for the fifteenth and final time in August 2000 against Augie Sanchez at Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, United States via a devastating fourth-round knockout. Hamed broke his hand badly in the bout, and following surgery he spent half a year out of the gym, gaining 35 pounds in weight. Rather than face the unknown EBU Champion & WBO mandatory challenger István Kovács, Hamed relinquished his WBO title to pave the way for a Superfight with Marco Antonio Barrera.
Hamed vs. Barrera
Eight weeks prior to the fight, which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on 7 April 2001, Hamed was 40 pounds overweight. At the end of training camp he still didn’t make the weight, and arriving in Las Vegas he spent the two days before the fight trying to shed 2 pounds in his hotel, by shadow boxing in steam rooms and running on the treadmill at 5am. Marco Antonio Barrera had “trained like a monk” in Big Bear, California, while Hamed trained in Bing Crosby’s old house. Emanuel Steward had arrived to oversee the last two weeks of Hamed’s training, including sparring, and was worried immediately. He had seen Barrera look razor sharp only a few months before in a stoppage win in Las Vegas, and watched Hamed look ragged in sparring with young Mexicans hired by the camp where his timing was woeful. The fight was also for the International Boxing Organization World featherweight title.
Hamed lost to Barrera via a unanimous decision (111-116, 112-115, 112-115), losing his Lineal championship. Hamed’s record at the time was 35–0 and he was a heavy favourite with bookmaker’s odds of 1/8. Having re injured his hand in training, Hamed took 40 minutes to come to the ring due mostly to not being happy with the gloves and having his hand wraps redone multiple times and didn’t vault the rope while entering the ring as he normally did due to the pain in his hand and still not being happy with the gloves. After being wobbled in Round 1, Hamed gained focus and was connecting a lot of punches however as the fight wore on he could not hit Barrera with his trademark lefts as much as in previous bouts as the Mexican boxer was equally quick and was not fighting defensively. His game plan was to circle around Hamed counter-clockwise to negate Hamed’s powerful left hand punch. On one occasion early in the fight, Barrera grabbed Hamed around the waist to which Hamed then pulled Barrera and they both fell to the ground where Barrera threw a right jab, leading to a warning from referee Joe Cortez. There were also several unchecked headbutts from Barrera. In the 12th and final round, Hamed, still looking for the knockout punch, missed wildly with a left hand, resulting in Barrera taking the opportunity to trap Hamed in a Half Nelson hold and force his head into the turnbuckle, resulting in a point being deducted by referee Joe Cortez. The flagrant (and memorable) foul, with the corner camera catching an infuriated-looking Barrera ramming Hamed into the corner post with conviction, the slow-motion replay turning it into one of the era’s most memorable moments. Ultimately, Barrera was more versatile and threw sharp, effective combinations en route to a unanimous decision, the first and only loss of The Prince’s career.
Final fight vs. Calvo
On 18 May 2002 at London Arena, Docklands, London, Hamed returned to the ring for what turned out to be his final boxing match, against the European champion Manuel Calvo (33 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw) for the International Boxing Organization World featherweight title. Hamed was booed by the 10,000 fans as he won unconvincingly on points after 12 rounds looking sluggish and uninterested. The judges scored the fight 120-110 and 119-109 (twice). In a post-fight interview with Ian Darke, Hamed assured a quick return to the ring, which ultimately never happened. For years, Hamed didn’t confirm whether he’d retired or not; there were talks of several fights in the UK and in the US, included Hamed’s brother and manager, Riath, speaking to HBO about a potential fight with Michael Brodie.