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Throwback: Prince Naz Entering The Ring On a Flying Carpet And Changing The Face Of Boxing

Throwback: Prince Naz Entering The Ring On a Flying Carpet And Changing The Face Of Boxing

Naseem Hamed would do a front flip over a top rope as tall as he was to enter the ring - but that was the least crazy part of his entrance.

Picture the scene: a mega, world-title showdown between two of the division's best boxers. How do you get to the ring? A few theatrics, but you probably need to focus on the fight, right?

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Wrong! You fly down from high on a magic carpet, soaking up the fans' hate and/or adulation, dismount, fist bump Puff Daddy, then make your way to the ring with him. Genius.

Oh, then you dominate the fight and knock out your rival in four rounds. Unlucky, Vuyani Bungu. But he wasn't the only man to crumble to the devastating one-two of Prince Naz's extreme showmanship and KO power.

Before Manny Pacquiao, before Floyd Mayweather, Naz changed the game for lighter-weight boxers. Fighters a few inches above 5ft and a few pounds below nine stone weren't supposed to become global box-office draws, headlining shows in New York, London and Las Vegas.

The audacity of his ring entrances loosened as many jaws as his unique, corkscrew power.

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His Halloween special in New Jersey was an absolute classic: Naz in a graveyard, "playing" a gothic organ, flipping off his cloak as fireworks erupted and Michael Jackson's Thriller kicked in, before he finally made his way to the ring - stopping, naturally, to uppercut a skull off a gravestone.

Pundits panicked over the poor taste, opponents were asked relentlessly about the psychological impact, fans simply lapped it up.

This slip of a lad born in Sheffield with Yemini heritage had turned himself into the leopard-print 'Prince', driven to the ring in a massive convertible or carried in on a golden palanquin.


For a while, the displays in the ring matched the thrills of the entrance. His unorthodox, Brendan Ingle-trained style - plus his elastic athleticism - were an electric combination. His 1997 US debut was a six-knockdown slugfest against Kevin Kelley that cemented his star status.

Inevitably, it couldn't last. While Mayweather played up the 'Money' personae on social media, his manta of "hard work, dedication" isn't for show. He prepared diligently. The Prince bought entirely into his own hype.

His disdain for roadwork, his swapping trainers - including a crazy situation in one fight where two trainers alternated their in-corner advice between rounds - caught up with him. Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera outboxed him in 2001 to end Hamed's unbeaten run.

Tellingly, for that fight, Naz chose to duck through the ropes rather than attempt his flip. Perhaps even he knew the game was up. He returned for one more win, aged 28, then vanished.

A low-key end to such a sky-high career. But the influence of British boxing's "forgotten man" can be seen in the razzmatazz that's followed - even if nobody has ever done it quite so well.

As the man himself said (with a characteristic total lack of humility): "I want to be remembered as the man who changed the pay scale for featherweights, who put the sparkle back in boxing after Muhammad Ali left, the man who took risks with his ring entrance.

"The man who, before the fight, would do a front flip into the ring without even thinking about turning an ankle, and then knocking his man out. I mean out."

If that's the scale we're marking Prince Naseem Hamed on, you can easily say: mission accomplished.

Topics: Boxing News, Boxing

Alex Reid

Alex Reid is a writer at SPORTbible who’s previously strung words together for FourFourTwo, Boxing News, The Guardian and, yes, Cruise International (it’s about big ships, not Tom). Interests range from football and boxing to real sports like WWE and darts. He is not a cage fighter.

 

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Throwback: Prince Naz Entering The Ring On a Flying Carpet And Changing The Face Of Boxing

Throwback: Prince Naz Entering The Ring On a Flying Carpet And Changing The Face Of Boxing

2 months ago