… And Goes Out With A Booed Whimper, Not An Applauded Bang
First Naseem Hamed bored his fans something awful, then “The Prince” insulted them.
It was 18 years ago today, at the London Arena, when Hamed, having his first fight back since being undressed by Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas the previous April, finished his boxing career. It was a dull finale for the man who had once lit up the lower weight divisions of the sport in thrilling fashion. Hamed, who had lost not only his unbeaten record to Mexican great Barrera, but also a good deal of his inner confidence and self assurance, looked terrible in his one and only comeback fight.
After allowing the contract that could have ensured him a return meeting with Barrera to expire (the rematch a fight Barrera was very much up for, even if it meant a trip to the UK), Hamed finally returned in May of 2002. Facing a little-known Spanish fighter named Manuel Calvo (rejected by HBO, Hamed and the cable giant thus parting ways), Hamed was expected to blast his way back to winning ways. But the sought after KO blow never came close to detonating.
Hamed looked bored during the 12 round featherweight fight that contested the IBO strap, and soon the fans in attendance joined him in feeling less than enthralled – for a while; a good number of these fans choosing to leave the arena altogether when it was clear the “action” was not going to heat up. Hamed won a wide decision, dropping just one round on two of the official cards, but he had not come close to impressing anyone, least of all himself.
Post-fight, Hamed blamed a damaged hand for his poor showing, and he then promised a quick return to the ring. It never happened. Instead, Hamed, who told Sky Sports media that the fans who had booed him during the Calvo snoozer were “ignorant,” people who “don’t know the craft of boxing” disappeared. Those fans who were still inside the arena booed his departure from the ring.
And that was it for one of the most exciting fighters of the 1990s/early 2000s. No retirement announcement came, but Hamed had fought his last fight. In hindsight, no retirement announcement was needed – the performance Hamed gave against Calvo told a knowledgeable fight fan that he was all done.
It’s quite ironic that the same night Hamed’s career came to a damp squib of an ending, a truly ferocious and electrifying rivalry began in Connecticut, USA. Around five or six hours after Hamed-Calvo came to its dreary conclusion, Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward collided for the first time. You could not point to two more totally different prizefights.