April 8th, 2004 – by Tomás Rohan
If reports emanating from Sheffield are to be believed then we could be about to see the return of “Prince” Naseem Hamed. Sightings of the Steel city showman have been few and far between since Hamed was booed out of the ring following a tedious twelve rounds points win over the ordinary Manuel Calvo in May of 2002.
The Calvo fight was supposed to see Hamed bounce back from his defeat at the hands of Marco Antonio Barrera, the only blemish on his record. His lethargic showing against Calvo though coupled with the disgruntled post fight reaction of the London crowd sent Hamed into hibernation. All talk of a domestic dust up with Manchester’s Michael Brodie came to nothing and some reports had Hamed blowing up to twelve stone, a whopping three stone over his fighting weight.
Now though it appears that at 30 Hamed has decided to return to the business that has made him one of Britain’s richest athletes. Reports of his fortune vary but it’s widely acknowledged that Hamed certainly doesn’t needs to return for financial reasons.
It seems that Hamed is likely to resume pursuit of a clash with Brodie if the Mancunian claims the WBC featherweight title against In Jin Chi this weekend. Another man who would relish a clash with the come backing Hamed is Wayne McCullough. The Las Vegas based Belfast man would relish the opportunity of tackling Hamed for a second time following his gallant but unsuccessful challenge for the Prince’s WBO featherweight title back in Atlantic City back in October of 1998.
Many had expected a quick win for Hamed who was then at the peak of his powers but few had factored McCullough’s grit and resilience into the equation. Hamed had predicted a third round stoppage but he never came even close to stopping McCullough instead choosing to spend most of the fight posturing and preening.
After the contest a frustrated McCullough accused Hamed of running from him while admitting that he was physically very strong. On hearing rumours of Hamed’s comeback though McCullough was keen to stake his claim for a rematch.
“If Hamed is looking for someone to fight then he needn’t look any further than me. He said he’d knock me out in three rounds the first time he met but he just ran from me really. I’d love a rematch with Naz more than any other fight out there. We’re both looking for another World title so I think it’s a perfect fight for both of us.”
Last time out they clashed at the Convention Center in Atlantic City and while McCullough had plenty of support there he’s in no doubt as to where he’d like a rematch to be held. “I said on T.V. after I fought him in 1998 that a rematch would sell out any venue in Belfast or Dublin and it still would. I’ll fight him anywhere, anytime but the atmosphere back home would be unreal.”
While it looks like there might be some tough weeks ahead in the gym for Hamed if he is to shed the excess weight McCullough says he would be ready for the fight at a moments notice. “I’d be ready to fight him tomorrow although I hear he’s more of a super middleweight these days! I’ve been training every day since last May so I’m always in fighting shape. I’m not sure how serious he is about coming back but if he’s looking for a fight then he knows where to find me.”