'Prince' Naseem Hamed looks back on career after being inducted into the Hall of Fame
Last Updated: 17/06/15 5:29pm
'Prince' Naseem Hamed was inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend and looked back on a glittering career in boxing.
Hamed picked up the IBF, WBO and WBC featherweight titles during an astonishing march to stardom and by the time he suffered his only career defeat - a points loss to the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas in April 2001 - he was a household name with 31 stoppages in 34 fights.
Hamed first became a world champion in defeating Welshman Steve Robinson at Cardiff Arms Park in September 1995 and fought another 17 times thereafter - most famously against the likes of Kevin Kelley, Wayne McCullough and Paul Ingle.
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Following the defeat to Barrera, he took a year away from the sport before sealing a comeback points victory over Manuel Calvo in London, but it was to be the last time he was seen in a professional boxing ring.
Ahead of being inducted to the Hall of Fame, Hamed said: "When you become a world champion and you defend your title for five or six years, have 15 defences and round up most of the other belts, you feel you're the best of your generation. Nobody can take that away from me.
"It's an honour and I'm really excited about it. I'm looking forward to going and obviously we've got a Hall of Famer with us today in Colin Hart, who was there throughout my career. He's brought his ring along to show me. I'm excited to get that even if I'm not really going to wear it!"
Having illuminated boxing for so long and then fighting just once after the infamous defeat to Barrera, many were left disappointed by Hamed's lack of activity, but he said: "I don't think I retired too soon.
"I just felt at that particular time in my life in 2002, after winning the fifth world title belt, I just thought: why not be one of the smart ones in boxing? I remember hearing Sugar Ray Leonard saying he'd had his time in the sun and I really did have mine.
"I felt that after 21 years of being in the gym it wasn't anything to do with pressure because I never felt any. It was more of a routine thing. Being a fighter is no joke. Year in and year out. Especially as a world champion. All eyes are on you and you can't go where you want, eat what you want.
"When I used to leave behind my wife and kids for a nine-week training camp, I felt it. I had young children and I was leaving them literally weeks of them being born. By the time I got back, they'd tripled in age!
"That seemed to get to me but the be all and end all was that I did enough in the sport. I felt there was enough money in the bank to invest well, which I did in the 1990s.
When I was 11 I predicted I'd be a world champion at the age of 21. It's written down. It's a fact. I was a world champion at 21.
Prince Naseem Hamed
"That man at the end there. He interviewed me when I was 11 and I predicted I'd be a world champion at the age of 21. It's written down. It's a fact. I was a world champion at 21.
"If you're blessed enough and lucky enough and have a fortunate career, you can take that step back. I'm just happy that I did it. There are no regrets but I miss it a lot. Thank God, I'm happy and content.
"There were a lot of fighters who were better than me that got knocked out and stopped because they stayed in the game too long. That never happened to me. I don't know that feeling. I thank God so much that that didn't happen to me.
"I came out out at the age of 28 and knew I'd had one loss on points and the only reason I had that loss was that the fight was taken too soon. I lost two and a half stone in eight weeks, which was virtually impossible but I made it and I still got that big cheque!
"As a fighter, I recognise that the one thing we fight for is prizes. The one thing that motivates us is money. A lot of fighters do come back because of money. The biggest spur they have is financial and thank God my finances were secure and I didn't need to come back for that reason."
Since leaving the sport, Hamed has threatened a comeback at several points to fill what he perceives is a void of character in the sport - but he now seems more focused on spending time with his family and developing his business interests.
The 41-year-old said of life after boxing: "I play golf. I like a game of snooker, too. I've always had a full-sized snooker table in every house I've ever bought. I spend a lot of time with my kids, my children and my wife. It's a pleasure to have that freedom and choice of travelling. I'm back and forth to Dubai a lot as I've been investing in there.
"I really enjoy my time away from the game and if there's only one thing that really irritates me, since I've stopped boxing, is that I'm really surprised that nobody has really come along to excite me like... me!
"I thought I'd have seen a character come through. The only character I've seen come through used to be a boxer and that is [UFC fighter] Conor McGregor. He's absolutely brilliant. I can see some similarities. He seems to have that confidence. I'm so surprised I haven't seen it in a boxer."
Hamed's showmanship was legendary and his ringwalks always caused a stir - perhaps most notably on the way to the ring to face durable Irishman Wayne McCullough in 1998, when he came in to a graveyard scene to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller.'
Hamed added: "The ringwalks were good. Every time we were approached with a ringwalk idea they must have thought 'he's never going to go for this' but I didn't refuse anything because I knew I was going to win.
"I thought 'The Graveyard' was fantastic when I was knocking those skulls off. It was Halloween and you've got to open your mind up a bit."
For more from Prince Naseem Hamed alongside Joe Gallagher, Joe Calzaghe, Martin Murray, Chris Sanigar and Tommy Coyle, download the Toe 2 Toe podcast on Wednesday afternoon - all on skysports.com/podcasts/toe-2-toe